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Full text of "Little essays drawn from the writings of George Santayana"

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First Published 1920 
Second Impression 1921 
Third Impression 1924 
Fourth Impression 1931 

Printed in Great Britain by R. & R. CI.ARK, LIMITED, Edinburgh. 


THE origin and purpose of this book can be briefly stated. 
Ever since I became acquainted with Mr. Santayana s 
writings, I have been in the habit of taking up now and then 
one or another of his volumes, finding in them, among many 
things that, being no philosopher, I did not understand, 
much writing like that of the older essayists on large human 
subjects, which seemed to me more interesting and in many 
ways more important than anything I found in the works 
of other contemporary writers. I soon fell into the way of 
copying out the passages that I liked, and thus I gradually 
formed a collection of little essays on subjects of general 
interest art and literature and religion, and the history 
of the human mind as it has manifested itself at various 
times and in the works of different men of genius. As 
most of Mr. Santayana s books have not been reprinted 
in England, and are hardly known to those on this side of 
the Atlantic who might be interested in them, it occurred 
to me that it might be worth while to print these little 
essays. I asked Mr. Santayana if he would permit me to 
do this, sending him my collection for his consideration 
and possible approval. I sent it to him with some mis 
giving, for I felt that it was rather an impertinent thing to 
cut up the life-work of a distinguished philosopher into a 
disconnected compilation of " elegant extracts." And then, 
as I re-read with more careful attention the books from 
which I had been making excerpts, I came to see that there 


lay implicit in the material something of far greater signifi 
cance, and that a much better use might be made of it. It 
became clear to me that the estimations and criticisms I 
had copied out were not mere personal and temperamental 
insights, but were bound up with, and dependent upon, 
a definite philosophy, a rational conception of the world 
and man s allotted place in it, which gave them a unity 
of interest and an importance far beyond that of any 
mere utterances of miscellaneous appreciation any mere 
"adventures of the soul." Mr. Santayana is by race and 
temperament a representative of the Latin tradition : his 
mind is a Catholic one ; it has been his aim to recon 
struct our modern, miscellaneous, shattered picture of the 
world, and to build, not of clouds, but of the materials 
of this common earth, an edifice of thought, a fortress 
or temple for the modern mind, in which every natural 
impulse could find, if possible, its opportunity for satis 
faction, and every ideal aspiration its shrine and altar. 
It was from this edifice of Reason that I had been taking 
the ornaments, and I now saw the much greater beauty 
they would have if they could appear in their appropriate 
setting. To sift, however, and rearrange these fragments, 
to reconstruct out of them some image in miniature of 
the original edifice from which I had detached them, was 
not a task for me to undertake it could only be performed 
by the architect of the original building. Fortunately 
I succeeded in persuading Mr. Santayana to undertake 
this task ; and while, therefore, the choice of these little 
essays is largely mine, their titles and order and arrange 
ment, and the changes and omissions which have been made 
in the original texts are due, not to me, but to their author. 








3. IDEALS 5 



6. THE BIRTH OF REASON . . . 10 



9. THE SELF *9 


12. PAIN 27 










22. LOVE 39 









26. PATHETIC NOTIONS OF GOD . , . . .54 










36. PIETY 83 


38. PRAYER 88 














49. UTILITY AND BEAUTY . . . . . .119 


51. MERE ART 125 


53. THE STARS s . . .126 

54. Music 129 



57. POETRY AND PHILOSOPHY . . . . .140 




61. THE SUPREME POET . . . . . .153 



63. THE DEARTH OF GREAT MEN . . . ..159 




67. ON ESSE EST PERCIPI . . . . . .169 

68. KANT . . . . . . . . .170 



71. UNJUST JUDGMENTS . . . . . .180 

72. MODERN POETRY . . . . . . .182 


74. POETRY OF LATIN PEOPLES . . . . - 186 

75. DANTE 186 







80. THE POLITICS OF FAUST . . . . .196 

8 1. EMERSON 199 

82. SHELLEY 203 

83. BROWNING 206 

84. NIETZSCHE 212 


86. HEATHENISM . 215 








93. INTUITIVE MORALITY ...... 237 








10 1. MORAL WAR 255 

102. ORIGIN OF TYRANNY .,.,,. 259 
103* WAR , . 260 



104. PATRIOTISM . . . 2 3 


1 06. COLLECTIVISM .268 

107. CHRISTIAN MORALITY .... .269 



in. HAPPINESS 2 7 8 


113. THE PROFIT OF LIVING ..... 282 


NOTE , 28 7 




MAN has a prejudice against himself : anything which 
is a product of his mind seems to him to be unreal or 
comparatively insignificant. We are satisfied only when 
we fancy ourselves surrounded by objects and laws inde 
pendent of our nature. We have still to recognize in 
practice that from our despised feelings the great world 
of perception derives all its value. Things are interesting 
because we care about them, and important because we 
need them. Had our perceptions no connexion with our 
pleasures, we should soon close our eyes on this world ; 
if our intelligence were of no service to our passions, we 
should come to doubt, in the lazy freedom of reverie, 
whether two and two make four. 

Yet so strong is the popular sense of the unworthiness 
and insignificance of things purely emotional, that those 
who have taken moral problems to heart and felt their 
dignity have often been led into attempts to discover 
some external right and beauty of which our moral 
and aesthetic feelings should be perceptions or discoveries, 
just as our intellectual activity is a perception or discovery 
of external fact. These philosophers seem to feel that 
unless moral and aesthetic judgments are expressions of 
objective truth, and not merely expressions of human 
nature, they stand condemned of hopeless triviality. A 
judgment is not trivial, however, because it rests on human 
feelings ; on the contrary, triviality consists in abstrac 
tion from human interests, of which the knowledge of 
truth is one, but one only ; and the human judgments and 
opinions which are truly of little importance are those 
that wander beyond the range of moral economy, or have 



no function in ordering and enriching the mind. The 
works of nature first acquire a meaning in the commen 
taries they provoke. 


ANTHROPOLOGY is a matter-of-fact record of the habits 
and passions of men. It is not the expression of any 
ideal ; it does not specify any direction in which it demands 
that things should move. Yet it describes the situation 
which makes the existence of ideals possible and intelligible. 
Given the propulsive energy of life in any animal that is 
endowed with imagination, it is clear that whatever he 
finds propitious to his endeavours he will call good, and 
whatever he finds hostile to them he will call evil. His 
various habits and passions will begin to judge one another. 
A group of them called vanity, and another called taste, 
and another called conscience, will arise within his breast. 
Each of these groups, in so far as they have not coincided 
or co-operated from the beginning, will tend to annex or 
overcome the others. This competition between a man s 
passions makes up his moral history, the growth of his 
character, just as the competition of his ruling interests 
with other interests at work in society makes up his out 
ward career. The sort of imagination that can survey 
all these interests at once, and can perceive how they 
check or support one another, is called reason ; and when 
ieason is vivid and powerful it gives courage and authority 
to those interests which it sees are destined to success, 
whilst it dampens or extinguishes those others which it 
sees are destined to failure. Reason thus establishes a 
sort of resigned and peaceful strength in the soul, founded 
on renunciation ot what is impossible and co-operation 
with what is necessary. 

Sense and each of the passions suffers from its initial 
independence. The disarray of human instincts lets 
every spontaneous motion run too far ; life oscillates 
between constraint and unreason. Morality too often 
puts up with being a constraint and even imagines such 


a disgrace to be its essence. Art, on the contrary, as 
often hugs unreason for fear of losing its inspiration, and 
forgets that it is itself a rational principle of creation 
and order. Morality is thus reduced to a necessary evil 
and art to a vain good, all for want of harmony among 
human impulses. 

A creature like man, whose mode of being is a life or 
experience and not a congealed ideality, such as eternal 
truth might show, must find something to do ; he must 
operate in an environment in which everything is not 
already what he is presently to make it. If all ends were 
already reached, and no art were requisite, life could not 
exist at all, much less a life of reason. Our deepest interest 
is after all to live, and we could not live if all acquisition, 
assimilation, government, and creation had been made 
impossible for us by their foregone realization, so that 
every operation was forestalled by the given fact. The 
distinction between the ideal and the real is one which 
the human ideal itself insists should be preserved. 

In the actual world this first condition of life is only 
too amply fulfilled ; the present difficulty in man s estate, 
the true danger to his vitality, lies not in want of work 
but in so colossal a disproportion between demand and 
opportunity that the ideal is stunned out of existence and 
perishes for want of hope. The life of reason is continually 
beaten back upon its animal sources, and nations are 
submerged in deluge after deluge of barbarism. 



IDEALS are not forces ; they are possible forms of being 
that would frankly express the will. These forms are 
invulnerable, eternal, and free ; and he who finds them 
divine and congenial and is able to embody them at least 
in part and for a season, has to that extent transfigured 
life, turning it from a fatal process into a liberal art. 

A supreme ideal of peace and perfection which moves 
the lover, and which moves the sky, is more easily named 


than understood. The value of the notion to a poet or 
a philosopher does not lie in what it contains positively, 
but in the attitude it expresses. To have an ideal does 
not mean so much to have any image in the fancy, any 
Utopia more or less articulate, as rather to take a con 
sistent moral attitude towards all the things of this world, 
to judge and coordinate our interests, to establish a hier 
archy of goods and evils, and to value events and persons, 
not by a casual personal impression or instinct, but accord 
ing to their real nature and tendency. So understood, an 
ultimate ideal is no mere vision of the philosophical dreamer, 
but the goal of a powerful and passionate force in the 
poet and the orator. It is the voice of his love or hate, of 
his hope or sorrow, idealizing, challenging, or condemning 
the world. 

The ideal is itself a function of the reality and cannot 
therefore be altogether out of harmony with the conditions 
of its own birth and persistence. Civilization is precarious, 
but it need not be short-lived. Its inception is already 
a proof that there exists an equilibrium of forces which 
is favourable to its existence ; and there is no reason 
to suppose this equilibrium to be less stable than that 
which keeps the planets revolving in their orbits. 


WHEN we consider the situation of the human mind in 
nature, its limited plasticity and few channels of com 
munication with the outer world, we need not wonder 
that we grope for light, or that we find incoherence and 
instability in human systems of ideas. The wonder rather 
is that we have done so well, that in the chaos of sensations 
and passions that fills the mind we have found any leisure 
for self-concentration and reflection, and have succeeded 
in gathering even a light harvest of experience from our 
distracted labours. Our occasional madness is less wonder 
ful than our occasional sanity. Relapses into dreams are 
to be expected in a being whose brief existence is so like 


a dream ; but who could have been sure of this sturdy 
and indomi able perseverance in the work of reason in 
spite of all checks and discouragements ? 

The resources of the mind are not commensurate with 
its ambition. Of the five senses, three are of little use 
in the formation of permanent notions : a fourth, sight, 
is indeed vivid and luminous, but furnishes transcripts of 
things so highly coloured and deeply modified by the 
medium of sense, that a long labour of analysis and correc 
tion is needed before satisfactory conceptions can be 
extracted from it. For this labour, however, we are 
endowed with the requisite instrument. We have memory 
and we have certain powers of synthesis, abstraction, 
reproduction, invention, in a word, we have understanding. 
But this faculty of understanding has hardly begun its 
work of deciphering the hieroglyphics of sense and framing 
an idea of reality, when it is crossed by another faculty 
the imagination. Perceptions do not remain in the mind, 
as would be suggested by the trite simile of the seal and the 
wax, passive and changeless, until time wear off their 
sharp edges and make them fade. No, perceptions fall 
into the brain rather as seeds into a furrowed field or 
even as sparks into a keg of powder. Each image breeds 
a hundred more, sometimes slowly and subterraneously, 
sometimes (when a passionate train is started) with a 
sudden burst of fancy. The mind, exercised by its own 
fertility and flooded by its inner lights, has infinite trouble 
to keep a true reckoning of its outward perceptions. It 
turns from the frigid probl ms of observation to its own 
visions ; it forgets to watch the courses of what should 
be its " pilot stars." Indeed, were it not for the power 
of convention in which, by a sort of mutual cancellation 
of errors, the more practical and no mal conceptions 
are enshrined, the imagination would carry men wholly 
away, the best men first and the vulgar after them. 
Even as it is, individuals and ages of fervid imagination 
usually waste themselves in dreams, and must disappear 
before the race, saddened and dazed, perhaps, by the 
memory of those visions, can return to its plodding thoughts. 

Five senses, then, to gather a small part of the infinite 
influences that vibrate in nature, a moderate power of 


understanding to interpret those senses, and an irregular, 
passionate fancy to overlay that interpretation such 
is the endowment of the human mind. And what is its 
ambition ? Nothing less than to construct a picture 
of all reality, to comprehend its own origin and that of 
the universe, to discover the laws of both and prophesy 
their destiny. Is not the disproportion enormous ? Are 
not confusions and profound contradictions to be looked 
for in an attempt to build so much out of so little ? 



PERCEPTION is no primary phase of consciousness ; it is 
an ulterior function acquired by a dream which has become 
symbolic of its external conditions, and therefore relevant 
to its own destiny. Such relevance and symbolism are 
indirect and slowly acquired ; their status cannot be 
understood unless we regard them as forms of imagination 
happily grown significant. In imagination, not in per 
ception, lies the substance of experience, while science and 
reason are but its chastened and ultimate form. 

Every actual animal is somewhat dull and somewhat 
mad. He will at times miss his signals and stare vacantly 
when he might well act, while at other times he will run 
off into convulsions and raise a dust in his own brain to 
no purpose. These imperfections are so human that we 
should hardly recognize ourselves if we could shake them 
off altogether. Not to retain any dulness would mean 
to possess untiring attention and universal interests, thus 
realizing the boast about deeming nothing human alien 
to us ; while to be absolutely without folly would involve 
perfect self-knowledge and self-control. The intelligent 
man known to history flourishes within a dullard and 
holds a lunatic in leash. He is encased in a protective 
shell of ignorance and insensibility which keeps him from 
being exhausted and confused by this too complicated 
world ; but that integument blinds him at the same time 
to many of his nearest and highest interests. He is amused 


by the antics of the brute dreaming within his breast; 
he gloats on his passionate reveries, an amusement which 
sometimes costs him very dear. Thus the best human 
intelligence is still decidedly barbarous ; it fights in heavy 
armour and keeps a fool at court. 

If consciousness could ever have the function of guiding 
conduct better than instinct can, in the beginning it would 
be most incompetent for that office. Only the routine 
and equilibrium which healthy instinct involves keep 
thought and will at all within the limits of sanity. The 
predetermined interests we have as animals fortunately 
focus our attention on practical things, pulling it back, 
like a ball with an elastic cord, within the radius of pertinent 
matters. Instinct alone compels us to neglect and seldom 
to recall the irrelevant infinity of ideas. Philosophers 
have sometimes said that all ideas come from experi 
ence ; they never could have been poets and must have 
forgotten that they were ever children. The great diffi 
culty in education is to get experience out of ideas. Shame, 
conscience, and reason continually disallow and ignore 
what consciousness presents ; and what are they but 
habit and latent instinct asserting themselves and forcing 
us to disregard our midsummer madness ? Idiocy and 
lunacy are merely reversions to a condition in which 
present consciousness is in the ascendant and has escaped 
the control of unconscious forces. We speak of people 
being " out of their senses," when they have in fact fallen 
back into them ; or of those who have " lost their mind," 
when they have lost merely that habitual control over 
consciousness which prevented it from flaring into all 
sorts of obsessions and agonies. Their bodies having 
become deranged, their minds, far from correcting that 
derangement, instantly share and betray it. A dream 
is always simmering below the conventional surface of 
speech and reflection. Even in the highest reaches and 
serenest meditations of science it sometimes breaks through. 
Even there we are seldom constant enough to conceive 
a truly natural world ; somewhere passionate, fanciful, 
or magic elements will slip into the scheme and baffle 
rational ambition. 



REASON was born, as it has since discovered, into a world 
already wonderfully organized, in which it found its pre 
cursor in what is called life, its seat in an animal body 
of unusual plasticity, and its function in rendering the 
volatile instincts and sensations in that body harmonious 
with one another and with the outer world on which they 
depend. Reason has thus supervened at the last stage 
of an adaptation which had long been carried on by irra 
tional and even unconscious processes. Nature preceded, 
with all that fixation of impulses and conditions which 
gives reason its tasks and its point d appui. 

The guide in early sensuous education is the same 
that conducts the whole life of reason, namely, impulse 
checked by experiment, and experiment judged again by 
impulse. What teaches the child to distinguish the 
nurse s breast from sundry blank or disquieting presences ? 
What induces him to arrest that image, to mark its associ 
ates, and to recognize them with alacrity ? The dis 
comfort of its absence and the comfort of its possession. 
To that image is attached the chief satisfaction he knows, 
and the force of that satisfaction disentangles it before 
all other images from the feeble and fluid continuum of 
his life. What first awakens in him a sense of reality is 
what first is able to appease his unrest. Impulses to 
appropriate and to reject first teach us the points of the 
compass, and space itself, like charity, begins at home. 

In order to begin at the beginning in the autobiography 
of mind, we must try to fall back on uninterpreted feeling, 
as the mystics aspire to do. We need not expect, however, 
to find peace there, for the immediate is in flux. It is 
not God but chaos ; its nothingness is pregnant, restless, 
and brutish ; it is that from which all our ideas of things 
emerge in so far as they have any permanence or value, 
so that to lapse into it again is a dull suicide and no salva 
tion. Peace, which is after all what the mystic seeks, 
lies not in indistinction but in perfection. If he reaches 


it in a measure himself, it is by the traditional discipline 
he still practises, not by his heats or his languors. The 
perturbed immediate finds or at least seeks its peace in 
reason, through which it comes in sight of some sort of 
ideal permanence. When the material flux manages to 
form an eddy and to maintain by breathing and nutrition 
what we call a life, it affords some slight foothold and 
object for thought and becomes in a measure like the ark in 
the desert, a moving habitation for the eternal. Life begins 
to have some value and continuity so soon as there is some 
thing definite that lives and something definite to live for. 
The primacy of impulses, irrational in themselves but 
expressive of bodily functions, is observable in the behaviour 
of animals, and in those dreams, obsessions, and primary 
passions which in the midst of sophisticated life some 
times lay bare the obscure groundwork of human nature. 
Reason s work is there undone. We can observe sporadic 
growths, disjointed fragments of rationality, springing 
up in a moral wilderness. In the passion of love, for 
instance, a cause unknown to the sufferer, but which is 
doubtless the spring-flood of hereditary instincts acci 
dentally let loose, suddenly checks the young man s gaiety, 
dispels his random curiosity, arrests perhaps his very 
breath ; and when he looks for a cause to explain his 
suspended faculties, he can find it only in the presence 
or image of another being, of whose character, possibly, he 
knows nothing and whose beauty may not be remarkable ; 
yet that image pursues him everywhere, and he is dominated 
by an unaccustomed tragic earnestness and a new capacity 
for suffering and joy. If the passion be strong there is 
no previous interest or duty that will be remembered 
before it ; if it be lasting the whole life may be reorganized 
by it ; it may impose new habits, other manners, and 
another religion. Yet what is the root of all this idealism ? 
An irrational instinct, normally intermittent, such as all 
dumb creatures share, which has here managed to dominate 
a human soul and to enlist all the mental powers in its 
more or less permanent service, upsetting their usual 
equilibrium. This madness, however, inspires method ; 
and for the first time, perhaps, in his life, the man has 
something to live for. The blind affinity that like a 


magnet draws all the faculties round it, in so uniting 
them, suffuses them with an unwonted spiritual light. 

Here, on a small scale and on a precarious foundation, 
we may see clearly illustrated and foreshadowed that life 
of reason which is simply the unity given to all existence 
by a mind in love with the good. In the higher reaches 
of human nature, as much as in the lower, rationality 
depends on distinguishing the excellent ; and that dis 
tinction can be made, in the last analysis, only by an irra 
tional impulse. As life is a better form given to force, 
by which the universal flux is subdued to create and 
serve a somewhat permanent interest, so reason is a better 
form given to interest itself, by which it is fortified and 
propagated, and ultimately, perhaps, assured of satisfac 
tion. The substance to which this form is given remains 
irrational ; so that rationality, like all excellence, is 
something secondary and relative, requiring a natural 
being to possess or to impute it. When definite interests 
are recognized and the values of things are estimated by 
that standard, action at the same time veering in harmony 
with that estimation, then reason has been born and a 
moral world has arisen. 


IF a dog, while sniffing about contentedly, sees afar off 
his master arriving after long absence, a new circle of 
sensations appears, with a new principle governing interest 
and desire ; instead of waywardness subjection, instead 
of freedom love. But the poor brute asks for no reason 
why his master went, why he has come again, why he 
should be loved, or why presently while lying at his feet 
you forget him and begin to grunt and dream of the chase 
all that is an utter mystery, utterly unconsidered. 
Such experience has variety, scenery, and a certain vital 
rhythm ; its story might be told in dithyrambic verse. 
It moves wholly by inspiration ; every event is pro 
vidential, every act unpremeditated. Absolute freedom 
and absolute helplessness have met together : you depend 


wholly on divine favour, yet that unfathomable agency 
is not distinguishable from your own life. This is the 
condition to which some forms of piety invite men to 
return ; and it lies in truth not far beneath the level of 
ordinary human consciousness. 

Systematic living is after all an experiment, as is the 
formation of animal bodies, and the inorganic pulp out 
of which these growths have come may very likely have 
had its own incommunicable values, its absolute thrills, 
which we vainly try to remember and to which, in moments 
of dissolution, we may half revert. Protoplasmic pleasures 
and strains may be the substance of consciousness ; and 
as matter seeks its own level, and as the sea and the flat 
waste to which all dust returns have a certain primordial 
life and a certain sublimity, so all passions and ideas, 
when spent, may rejoin the basal note of feeling, and 
enlarge their volume as they lose their form. This loss of 
form may not be unwelcome, if it is the formless that, 
by anticipation, speaks through what is surrendering its 
being. Though to acquire or impart form is delightful 
in art, in thought in generation, in government, yet a 
euthanasia of finitude is also known. All is not affecta 
tion in the poet who says, " Now more than ever seems 
it rich to die " ; and, without any poetry or affectation, 
men may love sleep, and opiates, and every luxurious 
escape from humanity. 

The path of reason is only one of innumerable courses 
perhaps open to existence, but it is the only one that 
human discourse is competent to trace. Madness, if 
pronounced, is precarious, but when speculative enough 
to be harmless or not deep enough to be debilitating, 
it may last for ever. 

An imaginative life may therefore exist parasitically 
in a man, hardly touching his action or environment. 
There is no possibility of exorcizing these apparitions by 
their own power. A nightmare does not dispel itself ; it 
endures until the organic strain which caused it is relaxed 
either by natural exhaustion or by some external influence. 
Therefore human ideas are still for the most part sensuous 
and trivial, shifting with the chance currents of the brain, 
and representing nothing, so to speak, but personal tern- 


perature. Personal temperature, moreover, is sometimes 
tropical. There are brains like a South American jungle, 
as there are others like an Arabian desert, strewn with 
nothing but bones. While a passionate sultriness prevails 
in the mind there is no end to its luxuriance. Languages 
intricately articulate, flaming mythologies, metaphysical 
perspectives lost in infinity, arise in remarkable profusion. 
In time, however, there comes a change of climate and the 
whole forest disappears. 

It is easy, from the standpoint of acquired practical 
competence, to deride a merely imaginative life. Derision, 
however, is not interpretation, and the better method of 
overcoming erratic ideas is to trace them out dialectically 
and see if they will not recognize their own fatuity. The 
most irresponsible vision has certain principles of order 
and valuation by which it estimates itself ; and in these 
principles the life of reason is already broached, however 
halting may be its development. We should lead our 
selves out of our dream, as the Israelites were led out of 
Egypt, by the promise and eloquence of that dream itself. 
Otherwise we might kill the goose that lays the golden 
egg, and by proscribing imagination abolish science. 

Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas, said a poet 
who stood near enough to fundamental human needs, 
and to the great answer which art and civilization can 
make to them, to value the life of reason and think it 
sublime. To discern causes is to turn vision into know 
ledge and motion into action. It is to fix the associates 
of things so that their respective transformations are col 
lated, and they become significant of one another. The 
calm places in life are filled with power and the spasms 
with resource. No emotion can overwhelm the mind, 
for of none is the basis or issue wholly hidden ; no event 
can disconcert it altogether, because it sees beyond. Means 
can be looked for to escape from the worst predicament ; 
and whereas each moment had been formerly filled with 
nothing but its own adventure and surprised emotion, 
each now makes room for the lesson of what went before 
and surmises what may be the plot of the whole. 



NOTHING is more natural than that animals should feel 
and think. The relation of mind to body, of reason to 
nature, seems to be actually this : when bodies have 
reached a certain complexity and vital equilibrium, a sense 
begins to inhabit them which is focussed upon the pre 
servation of that body and on its reproduction. To 
separate things so closely bound together as are mind and 
body, reason and nature, is a violent and artificial divorce, 
and a man of judgment will instinctively discredit any 
philosophy in which it is decreed. But to avoid divorce it 
is well first to avoid unnatural unions, and not to attribute 
to our two elements, which must be partners for life, 
relations repugnant to their respective natures and offices. 
Now the body is an instrument, the mind its function, 
the witness and reward of its operation. Mind is the 
entelechy of the body, a value which accrues to the body 
when it has reached a certain perfection, of which it would 
be a pity, so to speak, that it should remain unconscious ; 
so that while the body feeds the mind the mind perfects 
the body, lifting it and all its natural relations and impulses 
into the moral world, into the sphere of interests and ideas. 
No connexion could be closer than this reciprocal 
involution, as nature and life reveal it ; but the connexion 
is natural, not dialectical. The union will be denaturalized 
and, so far as philosophy goes, actually destroyed, if we 
seek to carry it on into logical equivalence. If we isolate 
the terms mind and body and study the inward implica 
tions of each apart, we shall never discover the other. 
That matter cannot, by transposition of its particles, 
become what we call consciousness, is an admitted truth ; 
that mind cannot become its own occasions or determine 
its own march, though it be a truth not recognized by all 
philosophers, is in itself no less obvious. Matter, dialectic- 
ally studied, makes consciousness seem a superfluous 
and unaccountable addendum ; mind, studied in the 
same way, makes nature an embarrassing idea, a figment 


which ought to be subservient to conscious aims and 
perfectly transparent, but which remains opaque and 
overwhelming. In order to escape these sophistications, 
it suffices to revert to immediate observation and state 
the question in its proper terms : nature lives, and per 
ception is a private echo and response to ambient motions. 
The mind gives voice to the impulses of the body ; at 
their behest a man defines the world that sustains him 
and that conditions all his satisfactions. In discerning 
his origin he christens Nature by the eloquent name of 
mother, under which title she enters the universe of dis 
course. Simultaneously he discerns his own existence 
and marks off the inner region of his dreams. And it 
behooves him not to obliterate these discoveries. By trying 
to give his mind false points of attachment in nature 
he would disfigure not only nature but also that reason 
which is so much the essence of his life. 

Consciousness, then, is the expression of bodily life 
and the seat of all its values. Its place in the natural 
world is like that of its own ideal products, art, religion, 
or science ; it translates natural relations into synthetic 
and ideal symbols by which things are interpreted with 
reference to the interests of consciousness itself. This 
representation is also an existence and has its place along 
with all other existences in the bosom of nature. In this 
sense its connexion with its organs, and with all that affects 
the body or that the body affects, is a natural connexion. 
If the word cause did not suggest dialectical bonds we 
might innocently say that thought was a link in the chain 
of natural causes. It is at least a link in the chain 
of natural events ; for it has determinate antecedents 
in the brain and senses and determinate consequents in 
actions and words. But this dependence and this efficacy 
have nothing logical about them ; they are habitual 
collocations in the world, like lightning and thunder. 

Whether consciousness accompanies vegetative life, or 
even all motion, is a point to be decided solely by empiri 
cal analogy. When the exact physical conditions of 
thought are discovered in man, we may infer how far 
thought is diffused through the universe, for it will be 
coextensive with the conditions it will have been shown 


to have. Now, in a very rough way, we know already what 
these conditions are. They are first the existence of an 
organic body and then its possession of adaptable instincts, 
of instincts that can be modified by experience. This 
capacity is what an observer calls intelligence ; docility 
is the observable half of reason. When an animal winces 
at a blow and readjusts his pose, we say he feels ; and 
we say he thinks when we see him brooding over his im 
pressions, and find him launching into a new course of 
action after a silent decoction of his potential impulses. 
Conversely, when observation covers both the mental and 
the physical process, that is, in our own experience, we 
find that felt impulses, the conceived objects for which they 
make, and the values they determine are all correlated 
with animal instincts and external impressions. A desire 
is the inward sign of a physical proclivity to act, an image 
in sense is the sign in most cases of some material object 
in the environment and always, we may presume, of some 
cerebral change. The brain seems to simmer like a caldron 
in which all sorts of matters are perpetually transforming 
themselves into all sorts of shapes. When this cerebral 
reorganization is pertinent to the external situation and 
renders the man, when he resumes action, more a master 
of his world, the accompanying thought is said to be 
practical ; for it brings a consciousness of power and an 
earnest of success. 

Cerebral processes are of course largely hypothetical. 
Theory suggests their existence, and experience can verify 
that theory only in an indirect and imperfect manner. 
The addition of a physical substratum to all thinking 
is only a scientific expedient, a hypothesis expressing the 
faith that nature is mechanically intelligible even beyond 
the reaches of minute verification. On the other hand, 
to add a mental phase to every part and motion of the 
cosmos is an audacious fancy. It violates all empirical 
analogy, for the phenomenon which feeling accompanies 
in crude experience is not mere material existence, but 
reactive organization and docility. 

The limits set to observation, however, render the 
mental and material spheres far from coincident, and even 
in a rough way mutually supplementary, so that human 



reflection has fallen into a habit of interlarding them. 
The world, instead of being a living body, a natural system 
with moral functions, has seemed to be a bisectible hybrid, 
half material and half mental, the clumsy conjunction 
of an automaton with a ghost. If philosophers of the 
Cartesian school had taken to heart, as the German trans- 
cendentalists did, the cogito ergo sum of their master, 
and had considered that a physical world is, for knowledge, 
nothing but an instrument to explain sensations and their 
order, they might have expected the collapse of half their 
metaphysics at the approach of their positive science : 
for if mental existence was to be kept standing only by 
its supposed causal efficacy nothing could prevent the 
whole world from becoming presently a bete machine. 
Psychic events have no links save through their organs 
and their objects ; the function of the material world is, 
indeed, precisely to supply their linkage. The internal 
relations of ideas, on the other hand, are dialectical ; their 
realm is eternal and absolutely irrelevant to the march 
of events. If we must speak, therefore, of causal relations 
between mind and body, we should say that matter is the 
pervasive cause of the distribution of mind, and mind the 
pervasive cause of the discovery and value of matter. To 
ask for an efficient cause, to trace back a force or investigate 
origins, is to have already turned one s face in the direction 
of matter and mechanical laws : no success in that under 
taking can fail to be a triumph for materialism. To ask 
for a justification, on the other hand, is to turn no less 
resolutely in the direction of ideal results and actualities 
from which instrumentality and further use have been 
eliminated. Spirit is useless, being the end of things : 
but it is not vain, since it alone rescues all else from vanity. 
It is called practical when it is prophetic of its own better 
fulfilments, which is the case whenever forces are being 
turned to good uses, whenever an organism is exploring 
its relations and putting forth new tentacles with which to 
grasp the world. 



WHAT we call ourselves is a certain cycle of vegetative 
processes, bringing a round of familiar impulses and ideas ; 
this stream has a general direction, a conscious vital inertia, 
in harmony with which it moves. Many of the develop 
ments within it are dialectical ; that is, they go forward 
by inner necessity, like an egg hatching within its shell, 
warmed but undisturbed by an environment of which 
they are wholly oblivious ; and this sort of growth, when 
there is adequate consciousness of it, is felt to be both 
absolutely obvious and absolutely free. The emotion 
that accompanies it is pleasurable, but is too active and 
proud to call itself a pleasure ; it has rather the quality 
of assurance and right. This part of life, however, is only 
its courageous core ; about it play all sorts of incidental 
processes, allying themselves to it in more or less congruous 
movement. Whatever peripheral events fall in with the 
central impulse are lost in its energy and felt to be not 
so much peripheral and accidental as inwardly grounded, 
being, like the stages of a prosperous dialectic, spontaneously 
demanded and instantly justified when they come. 

Man is as full of potentiality as he is of impotence. 
A will in harmony with many active forces, and skilful in 
divination and augury, may long profess to be almighty 
without being contradicted by the event. The sphere 
of the self s power is accordingly, for primitive estimation, 
simply the sphere of what happens well ; it is the entire 
unoffending and obedient part of the world. A man who 
has good luck at dice prides himself upon it, and believes 
that to have it is his destiny and desert. If his luck 
were absolutely constant, he would say he had the power 
to throw high ; and as the event would, by hypothesis, 
sustain his boast, there would be no practical error in that 
assumption. A will that never found anything to thwart 
it would think itself omnipotent ; and as the psychological 
essence of omniscience is not to suspect there is anything 
which you do not know, so the psychological essence of 
omnipotence is not to suspect that anything can happen 


which you do not desire. Such claims would undoubtedly 
be made if experience lent them the least colour ; but 
would even the most comfortable and innocent assurances 
of this sort cease to be precarious ? Might not any moment 
of eternity bring the unimagined contradiction, and shake 
the dreaming god ? 


IDEAL society is a drama enacted exclusively in the imagina 
tion. Its personages are all mythical, beginning with 
that brave protagonist who calls himself I and speaks all 
the soliloquies. When most nearly material these per 
sonages are human souls the ideal life of particular 
bodies or floating mortal reputations echoes of those 
ideal lives in one another. From this relative substanti 
ality they fade into notions of country, posterity, humanity, 
and the gods. These figures all represent some circle 
of events or forces in the real world ; but such repre 
sentation, besides being mythical, is usually most inade 
quate. The boundaries of that province which each spirit 
presides over are vaguely drawn, the spirit itself being 
correspondingly indefinite. This ambiguity is most con 
spicuous, perhaps, in the most absorbing of the personages 
which a man constructs in this imaginative fashion his 
idea of himself. " There is society where none intrudes " ; 
and for most men sympathy with their imaginary selves 
is a powerful and dominant emotion. True memory offers 
but a meagre and interrupted vista of past experience, 
yet even that picture is far too rich a term for mental 
discourse to bandy about ; a name with a few physical 
and social connotations is what must represent the man 
to his own thinkings. Or rather it is no memory, however 
eviscerated, that fulfils that office. A man s notion of 
himself is a figment in discourse for which his more con 
stant bodily feelings, his ruling interests, and his social 
relations furnish most of the substance. 

The more reflective and self-conscious a man is the 
more completely will his experience be subsumed and 
absorbed in his perennial "I." If philosophy has come 


to reinforce this reflective egotism, he may even regard 
all nature as nothing but his half-voluntary dream and 
encourage himself thereby to give even to the physical 
world a dramatic and sentimental colour. But the more 
successful he is in stuffing everything into his self-con 
sciousness, the more desolate will the void become which 
surrounds him. For self is, after all, but one term in a 
primitive dichotomy and would lose its specific and intimate 
character were it no longer contrasted with anything else. 
The egoist must therefore people the desert he has spread 
about him, and he naturally peoples it with mythical 
counterparts of himself. Sometimes, if his imagination 
is sensuous, his alter-egos are incarnate in the landscape, 
and he creates a poetic mythology ; sometimes, when 
the inner life predominates, they are projected into his 
own forgotten past or infinite future. He will then say 
that all experience is really his own and that some inex 
plicable illusion has momentarily raised opaque partitions 
in his omniscient mind. 

Philosophers less pretentious and more worldly than 
these have sometimes felt, in their way, the absorbing 
force of self-consciousness. La Rochefoucauld could de 
scribe amour propre as the spring of all human senti 
ments. Amour propre involves preoccupation not merely 
with the idea of self, but with that idea reproduced in 
other men s minds ; the soliloquy has become a dialogue, 
or rather a solo with an echoing chorus. Interest in one s 
own social figure is to some extent a material interest, 
for other men s love or aversion is a principle read into 
their acts ; and a social animal like man is dependent 
on other men s acts for his happiness. An individual s 
concern for the attitude society takes toward him is there 
fore in the first instance concern for his own practical 
welfare. But imagination here refines upon worldly 
interest. What others think of us would be of little 
moment did it not, when known, so deeply tinge what 
we think of ourselves. Nothing could better prove the 
mythical character of self-consciousness than this extreme 
sensitiveness to alien opinions ; for if a man really knew 
himself he would utterly despise the ignorant notions 
others might form on a subject in which he had such 


matchless opportunities for observation. Indeed, those 
opinions would hardly seem to him directed upon the 
reality at all, and he would laugh at them as he might at 
the stock fortune-telling of some itinerant gypsy. 

As it is, however, the least breath of irresponsible 
and anonymous censure lashes our self-esteem and some 
times quite transforms our plans and affections. The 
passions grafted on wounded pride are the most inveterate ; 
they are green and vigorous in old age. We crave support 
in vanity, as we do in religion, and never forgive contra 
dictions in that sphere ; for however persistent and 
passionate such prejudices may be, we know too well that 
they are woven of thin air. A hostile word, by starting 
a contrary imaginative current, buffets them rudely and 
threatens to dissolve their being. 

The highest form of vanity is love of fame. It is a 
passion easy to deride but hard to understand, and in men 
who live at all by imagination almost impossible to eradicate. 
The good opinion of posterity can have no possible effect 
on our fortunes, and the practical value which reputation 
may temporarily have is quite absent in posthumous 
fame. The direct object of this passion that a name 
should survive in men s mouths to which no adequate 
idea of its original can be attached seems a thin and 
fantastic satisfaction, especially when we consider how 
little we should probably sympathize with the creatures 
that are to remember us. What comfort would it be to 
Virgil that boys still read him at school, or to Pindar that 
he is sometimes mentioned in a world from which every 
thing he loved has departed ? Yet, beneath this desire for 
nominal longevity, apparently so inane, there may lurk an 
ideal ambition of which the ancients cannot have been uncon 
scious when they set so high a value on fame. They often 
identified fame with immortality, a subject on which they 
had far more rational sentiments than have since prevailed. 

Fame, as a noble mind conceives and desires it, is not 
embodied in a monument, a biography, or the repetition 
of a strange name by strangers ; it consists in the im 
mortality of a man s work, his spirit, his efficacy, in the 
perpetual rejuvenation of his soul in the world. When 
Horace no model of magnanimity wrote his exegi 


monumentum, he was not thinking that the pleasure he 
would continue to give would remind people of his trivial 
personality, which indeed he never particularly celebrated 
and which had much better lie buried with his bones. 
He was thinking, of course, of that pleasure itself ; think 
ing that the delight, half lyric, half sarcastic, which those 
delicate cameos had given him to carve would be per 
ennially renewed in all who retraced them. Nay, perhaps 
we may not go too far in saying that even that impersonal 
satisfaction was not the deepest he felt ; the deepest, 
very likely, flowed from the immortality, not of his monu 
ment, but of the subject and passion it commemorated ; 
that tenderness, I mean, and that disillusion with mortal 
life which rendered his verse immortal. He had expressed, 
and in expressing appropriated, some recurring human 
moods, some mocking renunciations ; and he knew that 
his spirit was immortal, being linked and identified with 
that portion of the truth. He had become a little spokes 
man of humanity, uttering what all experience repeats 
more or less articulately ; and even if he should cease 
to be honoured in men s memories, he would continue 
to be unwittingly honoured and justified in their lives. 

What we may conceive to have come in this way even 
within the apprehension of Horace is undoubtedly what 
has attached many nobler souls to fame. With an inver 
sion of moral derivations which all mythical expression 
involves we speak of fame as the reward of genius, whereas 
in truth genius, the imaginative dominion over experience, is 
its own reward and fame is but a foolish image by which 
its worth is symbolized. When the Virgin in the Magnificat 
says, " Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call 
me blessed," the psalmist surely means to express a spiritual 
exaltation exempt from vanity ; he merely translates 
into a rhetorical figure the fact that what had been first 
revealed to Mary would also bless all generations. That 
the church should in consequence deem and pronounce 
her blessed is an incident describing, but not creating, 
the unanimity in their religious joys. Fame is thus the 
outward sign or recognition of an inward representative 
authority residing in genius or good fortune, an authority 
in which lies the whole worth of fame. Those will sub- 


stantially remember and honour us who keep our ideals, 
and we shall live on in those ages whose experience we have 


SEA-SICKNESS and child-birth when they are over, the 
pangs of despised love when that love is dead or requited, 
the travail of sin when once salvation is assured, all melt 
away and dissolve like a morning mist leaving a clear 
sky without a vestige of sorrow. So also with merely 
remembered and not reproducible pleasures ; the buoyancy 
of youth, when absurdity was not yet tedious, the rapture 
of sport or passion, the immense peace found in a mystical 
surrender to the universal, all these generous ardours count 
for nothing when they are once gone. The memory of 
them cannot cure a fit of the blues nor raise an irritable 
mortal above some petty act of malice or vengeance, or 
reconcile him to foul weather. An ode of Horace, on the 
other hand, a scientific monograph, or a well-written 
page of music is a better antidote to melancholy than 
thinking on all the happiness which one s own life or that 
of the universe may ever have contained. Why should 
overwhelming masses of suffering and joy affect imagina 
tion so little while it responds sympathetically to aesthetic 
and intellectual irritants of very slight intensity, objects 
that, it must be confessed, are of almost no importance to the 
welfare of mankind ? Why should we be so easily awed 
by artistic genius and exalt men whose works we know 
only by name, perhaps, and whose influence upon society 
has been infinitesimal, like a Pindar or a Leonardo, while 
we regard great merchants and inventors as ignoble 
creatures in comparison ? There is a prodigious selfish 
ness in dreams : they live perfectly deaf and invulnerable 
amid the cries of the real world. 

Utilitarians have attempted to show that the human 
conscience commends precisely those actions which tend 
to secure general happiness and that the notions of justice 
and virtue prevailing in any age vary with its social economy 
and the prizes it is able to attain. And, if due allowance 


is made for the complexity of the subject, we may reason 
ably admit that the precepts of obligatory morality bear 
this relation to the general welfare ; thus virtue means 
courage in a soldier, probity in a merchant, and chastity 
in a woman. But if we turn from the morality required 
of all to the type regarded as perfect and ideal, we find 
no such correspondence to the benefits involved. The 
selfish imagination intervenes here and attributes an 
absolute and irrational value to those figures that entertain 
it with the most absorbing and dreamful emotions. The 
character of Christ, for instance, which even the least 
orthodox among us are in the habit of holding up as a 
perfect model, is not the character of a benefactor but of 
a martyr, a spirit from a higher world lacerated in its 
passage through this uncomprehending and perverse 
existence, healing and forgiving out of sheer compassion, 
sustained by his inner affinities to the supernatural, and 
absolutely disenchanted with all earthly or political goods. 
Christ did not suffer, like Prometheus, for having bestowed 
or wished to bestow any earthly blessing : the only 
blessing he bequeathed was the image of himself upon 
the cross, whereby men might be comforted in their 
own sorrows, rebuked in their worldliness, driven to put 
their trust in the supernatural, and united, by their 
common indifference to the world, in one mystic brother 
hood. As men learned these lessons, or were inwardly 
ready to learn them, they recognized more and more clearly 
in Jesus their heaven-sent redeemer, and in following their 
own conscience and desperate idealism into the desert or 
the cloister, in ignoring all civic virtues and allowing the 
wealth, art, and knowledge of the pagan world to decay, 
they began what they felt to be an imitation of Christ. 

It appears that the great figures of art or religion, 
together with all historic and imaginative ideals, advance 
insensibly on the values they represent. The image 
has more lustre than the original, and is often the more 
important and influential fact. A memorable thing, people 
say in their eulogies, little thinking to touch the ground 
of their praise. For things are called great because they 
are memorable, they are not remembered because they 
were great. Fortunate indeed was Achilles that Homer 


sang of him, and fortunate the poets that make a public 
titillation out of their sorrows and ignorance. The favours 
of memory are extended to those feeble realities and denied 
to the massive substance of daily experience. When life 
dies, when what was present becomes a memory, its ghost 
flits still among the living, feared or worshipped not for 
the experience it once possessed but for the aspect it now 
wears. Yet this injustice in representation, specula tively 
so offensive, is practically excusable ; for it is in one 
sense right and useful that all things, whatever their 
original or inherent dignity, should be valued at each 
moment only by their present function and utility. 

The error involved in attributing values to the past 
is naturally aggravated when values are to be assigned 
to the future. In this case imagination cannot be con 
trolled by circumstantial evidence, and is consequently 
the only basis for judgment. But as the conception of 
a thing naturally evokes an emotion different from that 
involved in its presence, ideals of what is desirable for 
the future contain no warrant that the experience desired 
would, when actual, prove to be acceptable and good. An 
ideal carries no extrinsic assurance that its realization 
would be a benefit. To convince ourselves that an ideal 
has rational authority and represents a better experience 
than the actual condition it is contrasted with, we must 
control the prophetic image by as many circumlocutions 
as possible. We must buttress or modify our spontaneous 
judgment with all the other judgments that the object 
envisaged can prompt. The possible error remains even 
then ; but a practical mind will always accept the risk 
of error when it has made every possible correction. The 
rationality possible to the will lies not in its source but 
in its method. An ideal cannot wait for its realization to 
prove its validity. To deserve allegiance it needs only 
to express completely what the soul at present demands, 
and to do justice to all extant interests. That life is 
worth living is the most necessary of assumptions and, 
were it not assumed, the most impossible of conclusions. 
Experience by its dead weight of joy and sorrow can 
neither inspire nor prevent enthusiasm ; only a living ideal 
will avail to attract the will and, if realized, to satisfy it. 




THE utility of pain lies in the warning it gives : in 
trying to escape pain we escape destruction. That we 
desire to escape pain is certain ; its very definition can 
hardly go beyond the statement that pain is that element 
of feeling which we seek to abolish on account of its intrinsic 
quality. That this desire, however, should know how to 
initiate remedial action is a notion contrary to experience 
and in itself unthinkable. If pain could have cured us 
we should long ago have been saved. The bitterest 
quintessence of pain is its helplessness, and our incapacity 
to abolish it. The most intolerable torments are those 
we feel gaining upon us, intensifying and prolonging them 
selves indefinitely. This baffling quality, so conspicuous 
in extreme agony, is present in all pain and is perhaps its 
essence. If we sought to describe by a circumlocution 
what is of course a primary sensation, we might scarcely 
do better than to say that pain is consciousness at once 
intense and empty, fixing attention on what contains no 
character, and arrests all satisfactions without offering 
anything in exchange. The horror of pain lies in its 
intolerable intensity and its intolerable tedium. It can 
accordingly be cured either by sleep or by entertainment. 
In itself it has no resource ; its violence is quite helpless 
and its vacancy offers no expedients by which it might 
be unknotted and relieved. 


THERE is nothing to which men, while they have food 
and drink, cannot reconcile themselves. They will put 
up with present suffering, with the certainty of death, 
with solitude, with shame, with wrong, with the expecta 
tion of eternal damnation. In the face of such things, 


they can not only be merry for the moment, but solemnly 
thank God for having brought them into existence. Habit 
is stronger than reason, and the respect for fact stronger 
than the respect for the ideal ; nor would the ideal and 
reason ever prevail did they not make up in persistence 
what they lack in momentary energy. 


HAD all intelligence been developed in the womb, as it 
might have been, nothing essential could have been learned 
afterwards. Mankind would have contained nothing 
but doctrinaires, and the arts would have stood still for 
ever. Those human races which are most precocious 
are most incorrigible and, while they seem the cleverest 
at first, prove ultimately the least intelligent. In some 
nations everybody is by nature so astute, versatile, and 
sympathetic that education hardly makes any difference 
in manners or mind ; and it is there precisely that genera 
tion follows generation without essential progress, and 
no one ever remakes himself on a better plan. Structure 
preformed is formed blindly ; the a priori is as dangerous 
in life as in philosophy. Only the cruel workings of com 
pulsion and extermination keep what is spontaneous in 
any creature harmonious with the world it is called to 
live in. Nothing but casual variations could permanently 
improve such a creature ; and casual variations will seldom 
improve it. 

To be born half-made is an immense advantage. If 
experience can co-operate in forming instincts, and if 
human nature can be partly a work of art, mastery can 
be carried quickly to much greater lengths. This is the 
secret of man s pre-eminence. His liquid brain is unfit 
for years to control action advantageously. He has an 
age of play which is his apprenticeship ; and he is formed 
unawares by a series of selective experiments, of curious 
gropings, while he is still under tutelage and suffers little 
by his mistakes. It is perhaps the duller races, with a 


long childhood and a brooding mind, that bear the hopes 
of the world within them, if only nature avails to execute 
what she has planned on so great a scale. 


INTELLIGENCE is no compulsory possession ; and while 
some of us would gladly have more of it, others find that 
they already have too much. The tension of thought 
distresses them and to represent what they cannot and 
would not be is not a natural function of their spirit. But 
knowledge is not eating, and we cannot expect to devour 
and possess what we mean. Knowledge is recognition of 
something absent ; it is a salutation, not an embrace. 
Consciousness is the least ideal of things when reason is 
taken out of it, and we cannot cease to think and still 
continue to know. What you call the evidence of sense 
is pure confidence in reason. You would not be so idiotic 
as to see no meaning in your sensations ; you will not 
pin your faith so unimaginatively on momentary appear 
ance as to deny that the world exists when you stop think 
ing about it. You feel that your intellect has wider scope 
and has discovered many a thing that goes on behind 
the scenes, many a secret that would escape a stupid and 
gaping observation. It is the fool that looks to look 
and stops at the barely visible : you not only look but 
see ; for you understand. And intelligence loves to 
perceive ; water is not more grateful to a parched throat 
than a principle of comprehension to a confused under 
standing. Intelligence is most at home in the ultimate, 
which is the object of intent. Those realities which it 
can trust and continually recover are its familiar and 
beloved companions. The mists that may originally 
have divided it from them, and which psychologists call 
the mind, are gladly forgotten so soon as intelligence avails 
to pierce them, and as friendly communication can be 
established with the real world. 



THE life of reason is no fair reproduction of the universe, 
but the expression of man alone. A theory of nature is 
nothing but a mass of observations, made with a hunter s 
and an artist s eye. A mortal has no time for sympathy 
with his victim or his model ; and, beyond a certain 
range, he has no capacity for such sympathy. As in 
order to live he must devour one-half the world and dis 
regard the other, so in order to think and practically 
to know he must deal summarily and selfishly with his 
materials ; otherwise his intellect would melt again into 
endless and irrevocable dreams. Much of what is valued 
in science and religion is not lodged in the miscellany 
underlying these creations of reason, but is lodged rather 
in the rational activity itself, and in the intrinsic beauty 
of all symbols bred in a genial mind. Of course, if these 
symbols had no real points of reference, if they were 
symbols of nothing, they could have no great claim to 
consideration and no rational character ; at most they 
would be agreeable images. They are, however, at their 
best good symbols for diffused facts having a certain 
order and tendency ; they render that reality with a 
difference, reducing it to a formula or a myth, in which 
its tortuous length and trivial detail can be surveyed to 
advantage without undue waste or fatigue. Symbols may 
thus become eloquent, vivid, important, being endowed 
with both poetic grandeur and practical truth. 

The facts from which this truth is borrowed, if they 
were rehearsed unimaginatively, in their own flat infinity, 
would be far from arousing the same emotions. The 
human eye sees in perspective ; its glory would vanish 
were it reduced to a crawling, exploring antenna. Not 
that it loves to falsify anything. That to the worm the 
landscape might possess no light and shade, that the 
atomic structure of a mountain should be unpicturable, 
cannot distress the landscape gardener nor the poet ; what 
concerns them is the effect such things may produce in the 
human fancy, so that the soul may live in a congenial world. 


Naturalist and prophet are landscape painters on 
canvases of their own ; each is interested in his own 
perception and perspective, which, if he takes the trouble 
to reflect, need not deceive him about what the world 
would be if not foreshortened in that particular manner. 
This special interpretation is nevertheless precious and. 
shows up the world in that light in which it interests 
naturalists or prophets to see it. Their figments make 
their chosen world, as the painter s apperceptions are the 
breath of his nostrils. 

While the relevance of the symbol is essential to its 
worth since otherwise science would be inapplicable and 
religion demoralizing its power and fascination lie in 
acquiring a more and more profound affinity to the human 
mind, so long as it can do so without surrendering its 
relevance to the facts of nature. 

The function of history or of criticism is not passively 
to reproduce its subject-matter. One real world is enough. 
Reflection and description are things superadded, things 
which ought to be more winged and more selective than 
what they play upon. They are echoes of reality in the 
sphere of art, sketches which may achieve all the truth 
appropriate to them without belying their creative limita 
tions : for their essence is to be intellectual symbols, at 
once indicative and original. 

The circumstances of life are only the bases or instru 
ments of life : the fruition of life is not in retrospect, not 
in description of the instruments, but in expression of the 
spirit itself, to which those instruments may prove useful ; 
as music is not a criticism of violins, but a playing upon 
them. This expression need not resemble its ground. 
Experience is diversified by colours that are not produced 
by colours, sounds that are not conditioned by sounds, 
names that are not symbols for other names, fixed ideal 
objects that stand for ever-changing material processes. 
The mind is fundamentally lyrical, inventive, redundant. 
Its visions are its own offspring, hatched in the warmth 
of some favourable cosmic gale. The ambient weather 
may vary, and these visions be scattered ; but the ideal 
world they pictured may some day be revealed again to 
some other poet similarly inspired ; the possibility of 


restoring it, or something like it, is perpetual. Perhaps 
human life is not all life, nor the landscape of earth the 
only admired landscape in the universe ; perhaps the 
ancients who believed in gods and spirits were nearer the 
virtual truth (however anthropomorphically they may 
have expressed themselves) than any philosophy or religion 
that makes human affairs the centre and aim of the world. 
Such moral imagination is to be gained by sinking into 
oneself, rather than by observing remote happenings, 
because it is at its heart, not at its finger-tips, that the 
human soul touches matter, and is akin to whatever other 
centres of life may people the infinite. 


SCIENCE is nothing but developed perception, interpreted 
intent, common-sense rounded out and minutely articulated. 
It is therefore as much an instinctive product, as much 
a stepping forth of human courage in the dark, as is any 
inevitable dream or impulsive action. Like life itself, 
like any form of determinate existence, it is altogether 
autonomous and unjustifiable from the outside. It must 
lean on its own vitality ; to sanction reason there is only 
reason, and to corroborate sense there is nothing but 
sense. Inferential thought is a venture not to be approved 
of, save by a thought no less venturesome and inferential. 
This is once for all the fate of a living being it is the very 
essence of spirit to be ever on the wing, borne by inner 
forces toward goals of its own imagining, confined to a 
passing apprehension of a represented world. Mind, 
which calls itself the organ of truth, is a permanent possi 
bility of error. The encouragement and corroboration 
which science is alleged to receive from moment to moment 
may, for aught it knows, be simply a more ingenious self- 
deception, a form of that cumulative illusion by which 
madness can confirm itself, creating a whole world, with 
an endless series of martyrs, to bear witness to its sanity. 

To insist on this situation may seem idle, since no 
positive doctrine can gain thereby in plausibility, and no 


particular line of action in reasonableness. Yet this 
transcendental exercise, this reversion to the immediate, 
may be recommended by way of a cathartic, to free the 
mind from ancient obstructions and make it hungrier and 
more agile in its rational faith. Scepticism is harmless 
when it is honest and universal ; it clears the air and is 
a means of reorganizing belief on its natural foundations. 
Belief is an inevitable accompaniment of practice and 
intent, both of which it will cling to all the more closely 
after a thorough criticism. When all beliefs are challenged 
together, the just and necessary ones have a chance to step 
forward and to re-establish themselves alone. The doubt 
cast on science, when it is an ingenuous and impartial 
doubt, will accordingly serve to show what sort of thing 
science is, and to establish it on a sure foundation. Science 
will then be seen to be tentative, genial, practical, and 
humane, full of ideality and pathos, like every great human 

Reason is not indispensable to life, nor needful if living 
anyhow be the sole and indeterminate aim ; as the exist 
ence of animals and of most men sufficiently proves. In 
so far as man is not a rational being and does not live 
in and by the mind, in so far as his chance volitions and 
dreamful ideas roll by without mutual representation or 
adjustment, in so far as his instinct takes the lead and even 
his galvanized action is a form of passivity, he may eschew 
science and say that life is not intellectual. Yet reason 
has the indomitable persistence of all natural tendencies ; 
it returns to the attack as waves beat on the shore. To 
observe its defeat is already to give it a new embodiment. 


MATHEMATICS, if it were nothing more than a pleasure, 
might conceivably become a vice. Those addicted to it 
might be indulging an atavistic taste at the expense of 
their humanity. It would then be in the position now 
occupied by mythology and mysticism. Even as it is, 
mathematicians share with musicians a certain partiality 



in their characters and mental development. Masters 
in one abstract subject, they may remain children in the 
world ; exquisite manipulators of the ideal, they may be 
erratic and clumsy in their earthly ways. Immense as are 
the uses and wide the applications of mathematics, its 
texture is too thin and inhuman to employ the whole mind 
or render it harmonious. It is a science which Socrates 
rejected for its supposed want of utility ; but perhaps 
he had another ground in reserve to justify his humorous 
prejudice. He may have felt that such a science, if 
admitted, would endanger his thesis about the identity 
of virtue and knowledge. 


THE miracle of insight into another mind, as it must seem 
to those who have not understood its natural and accidental 
origin, extends only to the limits of similar structure and 
common occupation, so that the distortion of insight 
begins very near home. It begins with constitutional 
divergence and deteriorates rapidly into false imputations 
and absurd myths. It is hard to understand the minds 
of children unless we retain unusual plasticity and capacity 
to play ; men and women do not really understand each 
other, what rules between them being not so much sym 
pathy as habitual trust, idealization, or satire ; foreigners 
minds are pure enigmas, and those attributed to animals 
are a grotesque compound of ^Esop and physiology. When 
we come to religion the ineptitude of all the feelings attri 
buted to nature or the gods is so egregious that a sober 
critic can look to such fables only for a pathetic expression 
of human sentiment and need ; while, even apart from the 
gods, each religion itself is quite unintelligible to infidels 
who have never followed its worship sympathetically or 
learned by contagion the human meaning of its sanctions 
and formulas. 

Language is an artificial means of establishing unanimity 
and transferring thought from one mind to another. Every 
symbol or phrase, like every gesture, throws the observer 


into an attitude to which a certain idea corresponded in 
the speaker ; to fall exactly into the speaker s attitude 
is exactly to understand. Every impediment to contagion 
and imitation in expression is an impediment to compre 
hension. For this reason language, like ail art, becomes 
pale with years ; words and figures of speech lose their 
contagious and suggestive power. Even the most inspired 
verse becomes in the course of ages a scarcely legible 
hieroglyphic ; the language it was written in dies ; a 
learned education and an imaginative effort are requisite 
to catch even a vestige of its original force. Nothing is 
so irrevocable as mind. 

There is evidently one case, however, in which the 
pathetic fallacy is not fallacious, the case in which the 
object observed happens to be an animal similar to the 
observer and similarly affected, as for instance when a 
flock or herd are swayed by panic fear. The emotion 
which each as he runs attributes to the others is, as usual, 
the emotion he feels himself in imitating them ; but this 
emotion, fear, is the same which in fact the others are 
then feeling. Their aspect thus becomes the recognized 
expression for the feeling which really accompanies it. 
So in hand-to-hand fighting : the intention and passion 
which each imputes to the other is what he himself feels ; 
but the imputation is probably just, since pugnacity is 
a remarkably contagious and monotonous passion. It is 
awakened by the slightest hostile suggestion and is greatly 
intensified by example and emulation ; those we fight 
against and those we fight with arouse it concurrently, 
and the universal battle-cry that fills the air, and that 
each man instinctively emits, is an adequate and exact 
symbol for what is passing in all their souls. 



IT is a mark of the connoisseur to be able to read character 
and habit and to divine at a glance all a creature s poten 
tialities. This sort of penetration characterizes the man 


with an eye for horse-flesh, the dog-fancier, and men and 
women of the world. It guides the born leader in the 
judgments he instinctively passes on his subordinates 
and enemies ; it distinguishes every good judge of human 
affairs or of natural phenomena, who is quick to detect 
small but telling indications of events past or brewing. 
As the weather-prophet reads the heavens so the man of 
experience reads other men. Nothing concerns him less 
than their consciousness ; he can allow that to run itself 
off when he is sure of their temper and habits. A great 
master of affairs is usually unsympathetic. His observa 
tion is not in the least dramatic or dreamful ; he does not 
yield himself to animal contagion or re-enact other people s 
inward experience. He is too busy for that, and too intent 
on his own purposes. His observation, on the contrary, 
is straight calculation and inference, and it sometimes 
reaches truths about people s character and destiny which 
they themselves are very far from divining. Such appre 
hension is masterful and odious to weaklings, who think 
they know themselves because they indulge in copious 
soliloquy (which is the discourse of brutes and madmen), 
but who really know nothing of their own capacity, situa 
tion, or fate. 

If Rousseau, for instance, after writing those Con 
fessions in which candour and ignorance of self are equally 
conspicuous, had heard some intelligent friend like Hume 
draw up in a few words an account of their author s true 
and contemptible character, he would have been loud 
in protestations that no such ignoble characteristics existed 
in his eloquent consciousness ; and they might not have 
existed there, because his consciousness was a histrionic 
thing, and as imperfect an expression of his own nature 
as of man s. When the mind is irrational no practical 
purpose is served by stopping to understand it, because 
such a mind is irrelevant to practice, and the principles 
that guide the man s practice can be as well understood 
by eliminating his mind altogether. So a wise governor 
ignores his subjects religion or concerns himself only 
with its economic and temperamental aspects ; if the 
real forces that control life are understood, the symbols 
that represent those forces in the mind may be disregarded. 


But such a government, like that of the British in India, 
is more practical than sympathetic. While wise men 
may endure it for the sake of their material interests, 
they will never love it for itself. There is nothing sweeter 
than to be sympathized with, while nothing requires a 
rarer intellectual heroism than willingness to see one s 
equation written out. 

Nevertheless this same algebraic sense for character 
plays a large part in human friendship. A chief element 
in friendship is trust, and trust is not to be acquired by 
reproducing consciousness but only by penetrating to 
the constitutional instincts which, in determining action 
and habit, determine consciousness as well. Fidelity is 
not a property of ideas. It is a virtue possessed pre 
eminently by nature, from the animals to the seasons 
and the stars. But fidelity gives friendship its deepest 
sanctity, and the respect we have for a man, for his force, 
ability, constancy, and dignity, is no sentiment evoked by 
his floating thoughts, but an assurance founded on our 
own observation that his conduct and character are to 
be counted upon. Smartness and vivacity, much emotion 
and many conceits, are obstacles both to fidelity and to 
merit. There is a high worth in rightly constituted natures 
independent of the play of mind. It consists in that 
ingrained virtue which under given circumstances would 
insure the noblest action, and with that action of course 
the noblest sentiments and ideas ; ideas which would 
arise spontaneously and would make more account of 
their objects than of themselves. 



WHEN men are in the same boat together, when a common 
anxiety, occupation, or sport unites them, they feel their 
human kinship in an intensified form without any greater 
personal affinity subsisting between them. The same 
effect is produced by a common estrangement from the 
rest of society. For this reason comradeship lasts no 


longer than the circumstances that bring it about. Its 
constancy is proportionate to the monotony of people s 
lives and minds. There is a lasting bond among school 
fellows, because no one can become a boy again and have 
a new set of playmates. There is a persistent comrade 
ship with one s countrymen, especially abroad, because 
seldom is a man pliable and polyglot enough to be at home 
among foreigners, or really to understand them. There 
is an inevitable comradeship with men of the same breeding 
or profession, however bad these may be, because habits 
soon monopolize the man. Nevertheless a greater buoyancy, 
a longer youth, a richer experience, would break down 
all these limits of fellowship. Such clingings to the familiar 
are three parts dread of the unfamiliar and want of resource 
in its presence, for one part in them of genuine loyalty. 
Plasticity loves new moulds because it can fill them, 
but for a man of sluggish mind and bad manners there is 
decidedly no place like home. 

Friends are generally of the same sex, for when men 
and women agree, it is only in their conclusions ; their 
reasons are always different. So that while intellectual 
harmony between men and women is easily possible, its 
delightful and magic quality lies precisely in the fact that 
it does not arise from mutual understanding, but is a con 
spiracy of alien essences and a kissing, as it were, in the 
dark. The human race, in its intellectual life, is organized 
like the bees : the masculine soul is a worker, sexually 
atrophied, and essentially dedicated to impersonal and uni 
versal arts ; the feminine is a queen, infinitely fertile, omni 
present in its brooding industry, but passive and abounding 
in intuitions without method and passions without justice. 
Friendship with a woman is therefore apt to be more or 
less than friendship : less, because there is no intellectual 
parity ; more, because (even when the relation remains 
wholly dispassionate, as in respect to old ladies) there is 
something mysterious and oracular about a woman s 
mind which inspires a certain instinctive deference and 
puts it out of the question to judge what she says by 
masculine standards. She has a kind of sibylline intuition 
and the right to be irrationally a propos. There is a 
gallantry of the mind which pervades all conversation 


with a lady, as there is a natural courtesy towards children 
and mystics ; but such a habit of respectful concession, 
marking as it does an intellectual alienation as profound, 
though not as complete, as that which separates us from 
the dumb animals, is radically incompatible with friendship. 



TRUE love, it used to be said, is love at first sight. Manners 
have much to do with such incidents, and the race which 
happens to set at a given time the fashion in literature 
makes its temperament public and exercises a sort of 
contagion over all men s fancies. If women are rarely 
seen and ordinarily not to be spoken to ; if all imagination 
has to build upon is a furtive glance or casual motion, 
people fall in love at first sight. For they must fall in 
love somehow, and any stimulus is enough if none more 
powerful is forthcoming. When society, on the contrary, 
allows constant and easy intercourse between the sexes, a 
first impression, if not reinforced, will soon be hidden and 
obliterated by others. Acquaintance becomes necessary 
for love when it is necessary for memory. But what makes 
true love is not the information conveyed by acquaintance, 
not any circumstantial charms that may be therein dis 
covered : it is still a deep and dumb instinctive affinity, 
an inexplicable emotion seizing the heart, an influence 
organizing the world, like a luminous crystal, about one 
magic point. So that although love seldom springs up 
suddenly in these days into anything like a full-blown 
passion, it is sight, it is presence, that makes in time a 
conquest over the heart ; for all virtues, sympathies, 
confidences will fail to move a man to tenderness and to 
worship unless a poignant effluence from the object envelops 
him, so that he begins to walk, as it were, in a dream. 

Not to believe in love is a great sign of dulness. There 
are some people so indirect and lumbering that they think 
all real affection must rest on circumstantial evidence. 
But a finely constituted being is sensitive to its deepest 


affinities. This is precisely what refinement consists in, 
that we may feel in things immediate and infinitesimal a 
sure premonition of things ultimate and important. Fine 
senses vibrate at once to harmonies which it may take 
long to verify ; so sight is finer than touch, and thought 
than sensation. Well-bred instinct meets reason half-way, 
and is prepared for the consonances that may follow. 
Beautiful things, when taste is formed, are obviously and 
unaccountably beautiful. The grounds we may bring 
ourselves to assign for our preferences are discovered by 
analysing those preferences, and articulate judgments 
follow upon emotions which they ought to express, but 
which they sometimes sophisticate. So too the reasons 
we give for love either express what it feels or else are 
insincere, attempting to justify at the bar of reason and 
convention something which is far more primitive than 
they and underlies them both. 

True instinct can dispense with such excuses. It 
appeals to the event and is justified by the response which 
nature makes to it. It is of course far from infallible ; 
it cannot dominate circumstances, and has no discursive 
knowledge ; but it is presumably true, and what it fore 
knows is always essentially possible. Unrealizable it 
may indeed be in the jumbled context of this world, where 
the Fates, like an absent-minded printer, seldom allow a 
single line to stand perfect and unmarred. 

The profoundest affinities are those most readily felt, 
and they remain a background and standard for all happi 
ness. If we trace them out we succeed. If we put them 
by, although in other respects we may call ourselves happy, 
we inwardly know that we have dismissed the ideal, and 
all that was essentially possible has not been realized. 
Love in that case still owns a hidden and potential object, 
and we sanctify, perhaps, whatever kindnesses or partialities 
we indulge in by a secret loyalty to something impersonal 
and unseen. Such reserve, such religion, would not have 
been necessary had things responded to our first expecta 
tions. We might then have identified the ideal with the 
object that happened to call it forth. The life of reason 
might have been led instinctively, and we might have 
been guided by nature herself into the ways of peace. 

LOVE 41 

As it is, circumstances, false steps, or the mere lapse 
of time, force us to shuffle our affections and take them 
as they come, or as we are suffered to indulge them. A 
mother is followed by a boyish friend, a friend by a girl, 
a girl by a wife, a wife by a child, a child by an idea. A 
divinity passes through these various temples ; they may 
all remain standing, and we may continue our cult in them 
without outward change, long after the god has fled from 
the last into his native heaven. We may try to convince 
ourselves that we have lost nothing when we have lost all. 
We may take comfort in praising the mixed and perfunctory 
attachments which cling to us by force of habit and duty, 
repeating the empty names of creatures that have long 
ceased to be what we once could love, and assuring our 
selves that we have remained constant, without admitting 
that the world, which is in irreparable flux, has from the 
first been betraying us. 

Ashamed of being so deeply deceived, we may try to 
smile cynically at the glory that once shone upon us, 
and call it a dream. But cynicism is wasted on the ideal. 
There is indeed no idol ever identified with the ideal which 
honest experience, even without cynicism, will not some 
day unmask and discredit. Every real object must cease 
to be what it seemed, and none could ever be what the 
whole soul desired. Yet what the soul desires is nothing 
arbitrary. Life is no objectless dream. Everything that 
satisfies at all, even if partially and for an instant, justifies 
aspiration and rewards it. Existence, however, cannot be 
arrested ; and only the transmissible forms of things can 
endure, to match the transmissible faculties which living 
beings hand down to one another. The ideal is accordingly 
significant, perpetual, and as constant as the nature it 
expresses ; but it can never itself exist, nor can its 
particular embodiments endure. 

Love is accordingly only half an illusion ; the lover, 
but not his love, is deceived. His madness, as Plato 
taught, is divine ; for though it be folly to identify the 
idol with the god, faith in the god is inwardly justified. 
That egregious idolatry may therefore be interpreted 
ideally and given a symbolic scope worthy of its natural 
causes and of the mystery it comes to celebrate. The 


lover knows much more about absolute good and universal 
beauty than any logician or theologian, unless the latter, 
too, be lovers in disguise. Logical universals are terms 
in discourse, without vital ideality, while traditional gods 
are at best natural existences, more or less indifferent facts. 
What the lover comes upon, on the contrary, is truly 
persuasive, and witnesses to itself, so that he worships 
from the heart and beholds what he worships. That 
the true object is no natural being, but an ideal form 
essentially eternal and capable of endless embodiments, is 
far from abolishing its worth ; on the contrary, this fact 
makes love ideally relevant to generation, by which the 
human soul and body may be for ever renewed, and at 
the same time makes it a thing for large thoughts to be 
focussed upon, a thing representing all rational aims. 

Whenever this ideality is absent and a lover sees nothing 
in his mistress but what every one else may find in her, 
loving her honestly in her unvarnished and accidental 
person, there is a friendly and humorous affection, admirable 
in itself, but no passion or bewitchment of love ; she is a 
member of his group, not a spirit in his pantheon. Such 
an affection may be altogether what it should be ; it may 
bring a happiness all the more stable because the heart 
is quite whole, and no divine shaft has pierced it. It is 
hard to staunch wounds inflicted by a god. The glance of 
an ideal love is terrible and glorious, foreboding death and 
immortality together. Love could not be called divine 
without platitude if it regarded nothing but its nominal 
object ; to be divine it must not envisage an accidental 
good but the principle of goodness, that which gives other 
goods their ultimate meaning. 

Love is a true natural religion ; it has a visible cult, 
it is kindled by natural beauties and bows to the best 
symbol it may find for its hope ; it sanctifies a natural 
mystery ; and, finally, when understood, it recognizes 
that what it worshipped under a figure was truly the 
principle of all good. 

The loftiest edifices need the deepest foundations. 
Love would never take so high a flight unless it sprung 
from something profound and elementary. It is accordingly 
most truly love when it is irresistible and fatal. The 

LOVE 43 

substance of all passion, if we could gather it together, 
would be the basis of all ideals, to which all goods would 
have to refer. Lovers are vividly aware of this fact : their 
ideal, apparently so inarticulate, seems to them to include 
everything. It shares the mystical quality of all primitive 
life. Sophisticated people can hardly understand how 
vague experience is at bottom, and how truly that vague 
ness supports whatever clearness is afterward attained. 
They cling to the notion that nothing can have a spiritual 
scope that does not spring from reflection. But in that 
case life itself, which brings reflection about, would never 
support spiritual interests, and all that is moral would be 
unnatural and consequently self-destructive. In truth, all 
spiritual interests are supported by animal life ; in this the 
generative function is fundamental ; and it is therefore 
no paradox, but something altogether fitting, that if that 
function realized all it comprises, nothing human would 
remain outside. Such an ultimate fulfilment would differ 
of course from a first satisfaction, just as all that repro 
duction reproduces differs from the reproductive function 
itself, and vastly exceeds it. All organs and activities which 
are inherited, in a sense grow out of the reproductive 
process and serve to clothe it ; so that when the generative 
energy is awakened all that can ever be is virtually called 
up and, so to speak, made consciously potential ; and 
love yearns for the universe of values. 

This secret is gradually revealed to those who are 
inwardly attentive and allow love to teach them something. 
A man who has truly loved, though he may come to recog 
nize the thousand incidental illusions into which love 
may have led him, will not recant its essential faith. He 
will keep his sense for the ideal and his power to worship. 
As a harp, made to vibrate to the fingers, gives some 
music to every wind, so the nature of man, necessarily 
susceptible to woman, becomes simultaneously sensitive 
to other influences, and capable of tenderness toward every 
object. A philosopher, a soldier, and a courtesan will 
express the same religion in different ways. In fortunate 
cases love may glide imperceptibly into settled domestic 
affections, giving them henceforth a touch of ideality ; 
for when love dies in the odour of sanctity people venerate 


his relics. In other cases allegiance to the ideal may 
appear more sullenly, breaking out in whims, or in little 
sentimental practices which might seem half-conventional. 
Again, it may inspire a religious conversion, charitable 
works, or even artistic labours. Nature also is often a 
second mistress that consoles us for the loss of a first. 

In all these ways people attempt more or less seriously 
to lead the life of reason, expressing outwardly allegiance 
to whatever in their minds has come to stand for the ideal. 
The machinery which serves reproduction thus finds 
kindred but higher uses, as every organ does in a liberal 
life ; and what Plato called a desire for birth in beauty 
may be sublimated even more, until it yearns for an ideal 
immortality in a transfigured world, a world made worthy 
of that love which its children have so often lavished on it 
in their dreams. 





EXPERIENCE has repeatedly confirmed that well-known 
maxim of Bacon s, that " a little philosophy inclineth 
man s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth 
men s minds about to religion." In every age the most 
comprehensive thinkers have found in the religion of their 
time and country something they could accept, interpreting 
and illustrating that religion so as to give it depth and 
universal application. Even the heretics and atheists, if 
they have had profundity, turn out after a while to be 
forerunners of some new orthodoxy. What they rebel 
against is a religion alien to their nature ; they are atheists 
only by accident, and relatively to a convention which 
inwardly offends them, but they yearn mightily in their 
own souls after the religious acceptance of a world inter 
preted in their own fashion. So it appears in the end that 
their atheism and loud protestation were in fact the hastier 
part of their thought, since what emboldened them to 
deny the poor world s faith was that they were too impatient 
to understand it. Indeed, the enlightenment common to 
young wits and worm-eaten old satirists, who plume 
themselves on detecting the scientific ineptitude of religion 
something which the blindest half see is not nearly 
enlightened enough : it points to notorious facts incom 
patible with religious tenets literally taken, but it leaves 
unexplored the habits of thought from which those tenets 
sprang, their original meaning, and their true function. 
Such studies would bring the sceptic face to face with the 
mystery and pathos of mortal existence. They would 
make him understand why religion is so profoundly moving 
and in a sense so profound!} 7 just. There must needs be 



something humane and necessary in an influence that has 
become the most general sanction of virtue, the chief 
occasion for art and philosophy, and the source, perhaps, of 
the best human happiness. If nothing, as Hooker said, 
is "so malapert as a splenetic religion," a sour irreligion 
is almost as perverse. 

At the same time, when Bacon penned the sage epigram 
we have quoted he forgot to add that the God to whom 
depth in philosophy brings back men s minds is far from 
being the same from whom a little philosophy estranges 
them. It would be pitiful indeed if mature reflection bred 
no better conceptions than those which have drifted down 
the muddy stream of time, where tradition and passion 
have jumbled everything together. Traditional concep 
tions, when they are felicitous, may be adopted by the 
poet, but they must be purified by the moralist and dis 
integrated by the philosopher. Each religion, so dear 
to those whose life it sanctifies, and fulfilling so necessary 
a function in the society that has adopted it, necessarily 
contradicts every other religion, and probably contradicts 
itself. The sciences are necessarily allies, but religions, 
like languages, are necessarily rivals. What religion a 
man shall have is a historical accident, quite as much as 
what language he shall speak. In the rare circumstances 
where a choice is possible, he may, with some difficulty, 
make an exchange ; but even then he is only adopting 
a new convention which may be more agreeable to his 
personal temper but which is essentially as arbitrary as 
the old. 

The attempt to speak without speaking any particular 
language is not more hopeless than the attempt to have a 
religion that shall be no religion in particular. A courier s 
or a dragoman s speech may indeed be often unusual and 
drawn from disparate sources, not without some mixture 
of personal originality ; but that private jargon will have 
a meaning only because of its analogy to one or more 
conventional languages and its obvious derivation from 
them. So travellers from one religion to another, people 
who have lost their spiritual nationality, may often retain 
a neutral and confused residuum of belief, which they may 
egregiously regard as the essence of all religion, so little 


may they remember the graciousness and naturalness of 
that ancestral accent which a perfect religion should have. 
Yet a moment s probing of the conceptions surviving in 
such minds will show them to be nothing but vestiges 
of old beliefs, creases which thought, even if emptied of 
all dogmatic tenets, has not been able to smooth away at 
its first unfolding. Later generations, if they have any 
religion at all, will be found either to revert to ancient 
authority, or to attach themselves spontaneously to some 
thing wholly novel and immensely positive, to some faith 
promulgated by a fresh genius and passionately embraced 
by a converted people. Thus every living and healthy 
religion has a marked idiosyncrasy. Its power consists 
in its special and surprising message and in the bias which 
that revelation gives to life. The vistas it opens and the 
mysteries it propounds are another world to live in ; and 
another world to live in whether we expect ever to pass 
wholly into it or no is what we mean by having a religion. 
Whoever it was that searched the heavens with his 
telescope and could find no God, would not have found 
the human mind if he had searched the brain with a 
microscope. Yet God existed in man s apprehension long 
before mathematics or even, perhaps, before the vault of 
heaven ; for the objectification of the whole mind, with its 
passions and motives, naturally precedes that abstraction 
by which the idea of a material world is drawn from the 
chaos of experience, an abstraction which culminates in 
such atomic and astronomical theories as science is now 
familiar with. The sense for life in things, be they small 
or great, is not derived from the abstract idea of their 
bodies but is an ancient concomitant to that idea, insepar 
able from it until it became abstract. The failure to find 
God among the stars, or even the attempt to find him there, 
does not indicate that human experience affords no avenue 
to the idea of God for history proves the contrary but 
indicates rather the atrophy in this particular man of the 
imaginative faculty by which his race had attained to 
that idea. Such an atrophy might indeed become general, 
and God would in that case disappear from human experi 
ence as music would disappear if universal deafness 
attacked the race. Such an event is made conceivable 


by the loss of allied imaginative habits, which is observ 
able in historic times. Yet possible variations in human 
faculty do not involve the illegitimacy of such faculties 
as actually subsist ; and the abstract world known to 
science, unless it dries up the ancient fountains of poetry 
by its habitual presence in thought, does not remove those 
parallel dramatizations or abstractions which experience 
may have suggested to men. In fact people seldom take 
a myth in the same sense in which they would take an 
empirical truth. All the doctrines that have flourished 
in the world about immortality have hardly affected men s 
natural sentiment in the face of death, a sentiment which 
those doctrines, if taken seriously, ought wholly to reverse. 
Men almost universally have acknowledged a Providence, 
but that fact has had no force to destroy natural aversions 
and fears in the presence of events ; and yet, if Provid 
ence had ever been really trusted, those preferences would 
all have lapsed, being seen to be blind, rebellious, and 
blasphemous. Prayer, among sane people, has never 
superseded practical efforts to secure the desired end ; 
a proof that the sphere of expression was never really 
confused with that of reality. Indeed, such a confusion, 
if it had passed from theory to practice, would have 
changed mythology into madness. With rare exceptions 
this declension has not occurred and myths have been 
taken with a grain of salt which not only made them 
digestible, but heightened their savour. 

It is customary to judge religions and philosophies by 
their truth, which is seldom their strong point ; yet the 
application of that unsympathetic criterion is not unjust, 
since they aspire to be true, maintain that they are so, and 
forbid any opposed view, no matter how obvious and 
inevitable, to be called true in their stead. But belief, 
which we have come to associate with religion, belongs 
really to science ; myths are not believed in, they are 
conceived and understood. To demand belief for an idea 
is already to contrast interpretation with knowledge ; it 
is to assert that that idea has scientific truth. Allegories, 
however, have their virtue ; and when religions and philo 
sophies are dead, or when we are so removed from them by 
time or training that the question of their truth is not a 


living question for us, they do not on that account lose all 
their interest ; then, in fact, for the first time they manifest 
their virtues to the unbeliever. He sees that they are 
expressions of human genius ; that however false to their 
subject-matter they may be, like the conventions of art 
they are true to the eye and to the spirit that fashioned 
them. And as nothing in the world, not even the truth, 
is so interesting as human genius, these incredible or 
obsolete religions and philosophies become delightful to us. 
The sting is gone out of their errors, which no longer 
threaten to delude us, and they have acquired a beauty 
invisible to the eye of their authors, because of the very 
refraction which the truth suffered in that vital medium. 
We see that they are a kind of poetry in which people half 
believed, because it intervened in their lives ; a poetry 
that beautified and justified to their minds the unfathomed 
facts of their ancestral worship, their social bonds, and 
their personal conscience. 


RELIGIOUS doctrines would do well to withdraw their 
pretension to be dealing with matters of fact. That 
pretension is not only the source of the conflicts of religion 
with science and of the vain and bitter controversies of 
sects ; it is also the cause of the impurity and incoherence 
of religion in the soul, when it seeks its sanctions in the 
sphere of existence, and forgets that its proper concern 
is to express the ideal. For the dignity of religion, like 
that of poetry, lies precisely in its ideal adequacy, in its fit 
rendering of the meanings and values of life, in its antici 
pation of perfection ; so that the excellence of religion is 
due to an idealization of experience which, while making 
religion noble if treated as poetry, makes it necessarily 
false if treated as science. Its function is rather to draw 
from reality materials for an image of that ideal to which 
reality ought to conform, and to make us citizens, by 
anticipation, in the world we crave. 

The mass of mankind is divided into two classes the 


Sancho Panzas who have a sense for reality, but no ideals, 
and the Don Quixotes with a sense for ideals, but mad. 
The expedient of recognizing facts as facts and accept 
ing ideals as ideals, although apparently simple enough, 
seems to elude the normal human power of discrimination. 

The liberal school that attempts to fortify religion by 
minimizing its expression, both theoretic and devotional, 
seems to be merely impoverishing religious symbols and 
vulgarizing religious aims ; it subtracts from faith that 
imagination by which faith becomes an interpretation 
and idealization of human life, and retains only a stark 
and superfluous principle of superstition. For meagre 
and abstract as such a religion may be, it contains all the 
venom of absolute pretensions ; it is no less cursed than 
the more developed systems with a controversial unrest 
and with a consequent undertone of constraint and suspicion. 
It tortures itself with the same circular proofs in its 
mistaken ambition to enter the plane of vulgar reality and 
escape its native element of ideas. It casts a greater 
blight than would a civilized orthodoxy on any joyous 
freedom of thought. For the respect exacted by an 
establishment is limited and external, and not greater than 
its traditional forms probably deserve, as normal expres 
sions of human feeling and apt symbols of moral truth. 
A reasonable deference once shown to authority, the mind 
remains, under such an establishment, inwardly and 
happily free ; the conscience is not intimidated, the 
imagination is not tied up. But the preoccupations of 
a hungry and abstract fanaticism poison the liberty 
nominally allowed, bias all vision, and turn philosophy 
itself, which should be the purest of delights and consola 
tions, into an obsession and a burden to the soul. In such 
a spectral form religious illusion does not cease to be illusion. 
Mythology cannot become science by being reduced in 
bulk, but it may cease, as a mythology, to be worth having. 

On the other hand, the positivistic school of criticism 
would seem to have overlooked the highest function of 
human nature. The environing world can justify itself 
to the mind only by the free life which it fosters there. 
All observation is observation of brute fact, all discipline 
is mere repression, until these facts digested and this 


discipline embodied in humane impulses become the 
starting-point for a creative movement of the imagination, 
the firm basis for ideal constructions in society, religion, 
and art. Only as conditions of these human activities 
can the facts of nature and history become morally in 
telligible or practically important. In themselves they 
are trivial incidents, gossip of the Fates, cacklings of their 
inexhaustible garrulity. To regard the function of man as 
accomplished when these chance happenings have been 
recorded by him or contributed to by his impulsive action, 
is to ignore his reason, his privilege shared for the rest 
with every living creature of using nature as food and 
substance for his own life. This human life is not merely 
animal and passionate. The best and keenest part of it 
consists in that very gift of creation and government which, 
together with all the transcendental functions of his own 
mind, man has significantly attributed to God as to his 
highest ideal. Not to see in this activity the purpose and 
standard of all life is to have left human nature half unread. 
It is to look to the removal of certain incidental obstacles 
in the work of reason as to the solution of its positive 
tasks. In comparison with such apathetic naturalism, 
all the errors and follies of religion are worthy of indulgent 
sympathy, since they represent an effort, however mis 
guided, to interpret and to use the materials of experience 
for moral ends, and to measure the value of reality by its 
relation to the ideal. 


RELIGIONS and philosophies may be capable of assimilating 
a great amount of wisdom even if their first foundation is 
folly. When the mind, for want of a better vocabulary, 
is reduced to using symbols, it pours into them a part of 
its own life and makes them beautiful. Their loss is a real 
blow, while the incapacity that called for them endures ; 
and the soul seems to be crippled by losing its crutches. 
For this reason religions do not disappear when they are 
discredited ; it is requisite that they should be replaced. 


For a thousand years the augurs may have laughed ; they 
were bound nevertheless to stand at their posts until the 
monks came to relieve them. 

The attempt to subsume the natural order under the 
moral is like attempts to establish a government of the 
parent by a child something children are not averse to. 
But such follies are the follies of an intelligent and eager 
creature, restless in a world it cannot at once master and 
comprehend. They are not due to lack of intelligence or of 
faith in law, but rather to a premature vivacity in catching 
at laws, a vivacity misled by inadequate information. The 
hunger for facile wisdom is the root of these errors. Men 
become superstitious, not because they have too much imagi 
nation, but because they are not aware that they have any ; 
and even the best philosophers seldom perceive the poetic 
merit of their systems. 


IT is pathetic to observe how lowly the motives are that 
religion, even the highest, attributes to the deity, and from 
what a hard-pressed and bitter existence they have been 
drawn. To be given the best morsel, to be remembered, 
to be praised, to be obeyed blindly and punctiliously 
these have been thought points of honour with the gods, 
for which they would dispense favours and punishments 
on the most exorbitant scale. Nor are the metaphysicians 
always happier in their theology. They call God universal 
substance and cause ; but the primary substance of things 
is their mere material, their first cause is their lowest 
instrument. Nothing can be lower or more wholly instru 
mental than the substance and cause of all things. 

Sometimes, indeed, it is from the good, from the 
experience of beauty and happiness, from the occasional 
harmony between our nature and our environment, that 
we draw our conception of the divine life. Yet even then 
we succumb to human illusions. We believe those things 
to be happy, for instance, which it makes us happy to think 
of or to see : the belief in the felicity of the supreme being 


has no other foundation. Our joy in the thought of omni 
potence, omniscience, and changelessness causes us to attri 
bute a joy to the possession of them, which they would in 
fact, perhaps, be very far from involving or even allowing. 

No religion has ever given a picture of deity which men 
could have imitated without the grossest immorality. 
Yet these shocking representations have not had a bad 
effect on believers. The deity was opposed to their own 
vices ; those it might itself be credited with offered no 
contagious example. In spite of the theologians, we know 
by instinct that in speaking of the gods we are dealing in 
myths and symbols. Some aspect of nature or some law 
of life, expressed in an attribute of deity, is what we really 
regard, and to regard such things, however sinister they 
may be, cannot but chasten and moralize us. The personal 
character that such a function would involve, if it were 
exercised willingly by a responsible being, is something 
that never enters our thoughts. No such painful image 
comes to perplex the plain sense of instinctive, poetic 
religion. Homer s stories about the gods can hardly have 
demoralized the youths who recited them. To give moral 
importance to myths, as Plato tended to do, is to take 
them far too seriously and to belittle what they stand for. 
Left to themselves they float in an ineffectual stratum of 
the brain. They are understood and grow current precisely 
by not being pressed, like an idiom or a metaphor. 

The gods sometimes appear, and when they do they 
bring us a foretaste of that sublime victory of mind over 
matter which we may never gain in experience but which 
may constantly be gained in thought. When natural 
phenomena are conceived as the manifestation of divine 
life, human life itself, by sympathy with that ideal 
projection of itself, enlarges its customary bounds, until 
it seems capable of becoming the life of the universe. A 
god is a conceived victory of mind over nature. A visible 
god is the consciousness of such a victory momentarily 
attained. The vision soon vanishes, the sense of omni 
potence is soon dispelled by recurring conflicts with hostile 
forces ; but the momentary illusion of that realized good 
has left us with the perennial knowledge of good as an 
ideal. Therein lies the essence and the function of religion. 



IN Greek religion, as in all other religions, there was a 
background of vulgar superstition. Survivals and revivals 
of totem -worship, taboo, magic, ritual barter, and ob 
jectified rhetoric are to be found in it to the very end; 
yet if we consider in Greek religion its characteristic 
tendency, and what rendered it distinctively Greek, we 
see that it was its unprecedented ideality, disinterestedness, 
and sestheticism. The pagan world, because its maturity 
was simpler than our crudeness, seems childish to us. 
We do not find there our sins and holiness, our love, charity, 
and honour. To the Greek, in so far as he was a Greek, 
religion was an aspiration to grow like the gods by invok 
ing their companionship, rehearsing their story, feeling 
vicariously the glow of their splendid prerogatives, and 
placing them, in the form of beautiful and very human 
statues, constantly before his eyes. This sympathetic 
interest in the immortals took the place, in the typical 
Greek mind, of any vivid hope of human immortality ; 
perhaps it made such a hope seem superfluous and in 
appropriate. Mortality belonged to man, as immortality 
to the gods ; and the one was the complement of the other. 
Imagine a poet who to the freedom and simplicity of Homer 
should have added the more reverent idealism of a later 
age ; and what an inexhaustible fund of poetry might 
he not have found in this conception of the immortals 
leading a human life, without its sordid contrarieties and 
limitations, eternally young, and frank, and different 1 


THE pagan poets, when they devised a myth, half believed 
in it for a fact. What really lent some truth moral truth 
only to their imaginations was the beauty of nature, 


the comedy of life, or the groans of mankind, crushed 
between the upper and the nether millstones ; but being 
scientifically ignorant they allowed their pictorial wisdom 
to pass for a revealed science, for a physics of the unseen. 
If even among the pagans the poetic expression of human 
experience could be mistaken in this way for knowledge of 
occult existences, how much more must this have been 
the case among a more ignorant and a more intense nation 
like the Jews ? Indeed, events are what the Jews have 
always remembered and hoped for ; if their religion was 
not a guide to events, an assured means towards a positive 
and experimental salvation, it w r as nothing. Their theology 
was meagre in the description of the Lord s nature, but 
rich in the description of his ways. Indeed, their belief 
in the existence and power of the Lord, if we take it 
pragmatically and not imaginatively, was simply the belief 
in certain moral harmonies in destiny, in the sufficiency 
of conduct of a certain sort to secure success and good 
fortune, both national and personal. This faith was 
partly an experience and partly a demand ; it turned on 
history and prophecy. History was interpreted by a 
prophetic insight into the moral principle, believed to 
govern it ; and prophecy was a passionate demonstration 
of the same principles, at work in the catastrophes of the 
day or of the morrow. 

The after-effects of Hebraism, however, were contrary 
to its foundations ; for the Jews loved the world so much 
that they brought themselves, in order to win and enjoy 
it, to an intense concentration of purpose ; but this effort 
and discipline not only failed of their object, but grew far 
too absolute and sublime to think their object could ever 
have been earthly ; and the supernatural machinery which 
was to have secured prosperity, while that still enticed, 
now had to furnish some worthier object for the passion 
it had artificially fostered. Fanaticism consists in re 
doubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim. 

Christianity, being a practical and living faith in a 
possible eventual redemption from sin, from the punish 
ment for sin, from the thousand circumstances that make 
the most brilliant worldly life a sham and a failure, essenti 
ally involves a faith in a supernatural physics, in such an 


economy of forces, behind, within, and around the discover 
able forces of nature, that the destiny which nature seems 
to prepare for us may be reversed, that failures may be 
turned into successes, ignominy into glory, and humble 
faith into triumphant vision : and this not merely by 
a change in our point of view or estimation of things, 
but by an actual historical, physical transformation in 
the things themselves. To believe this in our day may 
require courage, even a certain childish simplicity ; but were 
not courage and a certain childish simplicity always 
requisite for Christian faith ? It never was a religion for 
the rationalist and the worldling ; it was based on aliena 
tion from the world, from the intellectual world no less 
than from the economic and political. It flourished in the 
Oriental imagination that is able to treat all existence with 
disdain and to hold it superbly at arm s length, and at the 
same time is subject to visions and false memories, is swayed 
by the eloquence of private passion, and raises confidently 
to heaven the cry of the poor, the bereaved, and the 
distressed. Its daily bread, from the beginning, was 
hope for a miraculous change of scene, for prison walls 
falling to the ground about it, for a heart inwardly com 
forted, and a shower of good things from the sky. 

It is clear that a supernaturalistic faith of this sort, 
which might wholly inspire some revolutionary sect, can 
never wholly inspire human society. Whenever a nation 
is converted to Christianity, its Christianity, in practice, 
must be largely converted into paganism. The true 
Christian is in all countries a pilgrim and a stranger ; not 
his kinsmen, but whoever does the will of his Father who 
is in heaven, is his brother and sister and mother and his 
real compatriot. In a nation that calls itself Christian 
every child may be pledged, at baptism, to renounce the 
world, the flesh, and the devil ; but the flesh will assert 
itself notwithstanding, the devil will have his due, and the 
nominal Christian, become a man of business and the head 
of a family, will form an integral part of that very world 
which he will pledge his children to renounce in turn as he 
holds them over the font. The lips, even the intellect, may 
continue to profess the Christian ideal ; but public and 
social life will be guided by quite another. 


The ages of faith, the ages of Christian unity, were such 
only superficially. When all men are Christians only a 
small element can be Christian in the average man. The 
thirteenth century, for instance, is supposed to be the 
golden age of Catholicism ; but what seems to have filled 
it, if we may judge by the witness of Dante ? Little but 
bitter conflicts, racial and religious ; faithless rebellions, 
both in states and in individuals, against the Christian 
regimen : worldliness in the church, barbarism in the 
people, and a dawning of all sorts of scientific and aesthetic 
passions, in themselves quite pagan and contrary to the 
spirit of the gospel. Christendom at that time was by no 
means a kingdom of God on earth ; it was a conglomeration 
of incorrigible rascals, intellectually more or less Christian. 
We may see the same thing under different circumstances 
in the Spain of Philip II. Here was a government con 
sciously labouring, in the service of the church, to resist 
Turks, convert pagans, banish Moslems, and crush Protest 
ants. Yet the very forces engaged in defending the 
church (the army and the Inquisition) were alien to the 
Christian life ; they were fit embodiments rather of chiv 
alry and greed, or of policy and jealous dominion. The 
ecclesiastical forces also theology, ritual, and hierarchy 
employed in spreading the gospel, were themselves alien 
to the gospel. An anti-worldly religion finds itself in fact 
in this dilemma : if it remains merely spiritual, developing 
no material organs, it cannot affect the world ; while if it 
develops organs with which to operate on the world, these 
organs become a part of the world from which it is trying 
to wean the individual spirit, so that the moment it is 
armed for conflict such a religion has two enemies on its 
hands. It is stifled by its necessary armour, and adds 
treason in its members to hostility in its foes. The passions 
and arts it uses against its opponents are as fatal to itself 
as those which its opponents array against it. 

In every age in which a supernaturalistic system is 
preached we must accordingly expect to find the world 
standing up stubbornly against it, essentially unconverted 
and hostile, whatever name it may have been christened 
with ; and we may expect the spirit of the world to find 
expression, not only in overt opposition to the super- 


naturalistic system, but also in the surviving or supervening 
worldliness of the faithful. Such an insidious revulsion 
of the natural man against a religion he does not openly 
discard is what, in modern Christendom, we call the 
Renaissance. No less than the Revolution (which is the 
later open rebellion against the same traditions) the 
Renaissance is radically inimical to Christianity. To say 
that Christianity survives, even if weakened or disestab 
lished, is to say that the Renaissance and the Revolution 
are still incomplete. Far from being past events they are 
living programmes. The ideal of the Renaissance is to 
restore pagan standards in polite learning, in philosophy, 
in sentiment, and in morals. It is to abandon and exactly 
reverse one s baptismal vows. Instead of forsaking this 
wicked world, the men of the Renaissance accept, love, and 
cultivate the world, with all its pomp and vanities ; they 
believe in the blamelessness of natural life and in its 
perfectibility ; or they cling at least to a noble ambition 
to perfect it and a glorious ability to enjoy it. Instead of 
renouncing the flesh, they feed, refine, and adorn it ; their 
arts glorify its beauty and its passions. And far from 
renouncing the devil if we understand by the devil the 
proud assertion on the part of the finite of its autonomy : 
autonomy of the intellect in science, autonomy of the 
heart and will in morals the men of the Renaissance are 
possessed by the devil altogether. They worship nothing 
and acknowledge authority in nothing save in their own 
spirit. No opposition could be more radical and complete 
than that between the Renaissance and the anti-worldly 
religion of the gospel. 


WHAT overcame the world, because it was what the 
world desired, was not a moral reform for that was 
preached by every sect ; not an ascetic regimen for that 
was practised by heathen gymnosophists and pagan 
philosophers ; not brotherly love within the church for 


the Jews had and have that at least in equal measure ; 
but what overcame the world was what Saint Paul said he 
would always preach : Christ and him crucified. Therein 
was a new poetry, a new ideal, a new God. Therein was 
the transcript of the real experience of humanity, as men 
found it in their inmost souls and as they were dimly 
aware of it in universal history. The moving power was 
a fable for who stopped to question whether its elements 
were historical, if only its meaning were profound and its 
inspiration contagious ? This fable had points of attach 
ment to real life in a visible brotherhood and in an extant 
worship, as well as in the religious past of a whole people. 
At the same time it carried the imagination into a new 
sphere ; it sanctified the poverty and sorrow at which 
paganism had shuddered ; it awakened tenderer emotions, 
revealed more humane objects of adoration, and furnished 
subtler instruments of grace. It was a whole world of 
poetry descended among men, like the angels at the 
Nativity, doubling, as it were, their habitation, so that 
they might move through supernatural realms in the spirit 
while they walked the earth in the flesh. The consciousness 
of new loves, new duties, fresh consolations, and luminous, 
unutterable hopes accompanied them wherever they went. 
They stopped willingly in the midst of their business for 
recollection, like men in love ; they sought to stimulate 
their imaginations, to focus, as it were, the long vistas of 
an invisible landscape. 

A crude and superficial theology may confuse God 
with the thunder, the mountains, the heavenly bodies, or 
the whole universe ; but when we pass from these easy 
identifications to a religion that has taken root in the 
hearts of men, we find its objects and its dogmas purely 
ideal, transparent expressions of moral experience and 
perfect counterparts of human needs. The evidence of 
history or of the senses is left far behind and never thought 
of ; the evidence of the heart, the value of the idea, are 
alone regarded. 

Religion, then, offers another world, almost as vast and 
solid as the real one, in which the soul may develop. In 
entering it we do not enter a sphere of arbitrary dreams, 
but a sphere of law where learning, experience, and happi- 


ness may be gained. There is more method, more reason, 
in such madness than in the sanity of most people. Hence 
the believer in any adequate and mature religion clings to 
it with such strange tenacity and regards it as his highest 
heritage, while the outsider, whose imagination speaks 
another language, or is dumb altogether, wonders how so 
wild a fiction can take root in a reasonable mind. 


THE great characteristic of Christianity, inherited from 
Judaism, was that its scheme was historical. Not exist 
ences but events were the subject of its primary interest. 
It presented a story, not a cosmology. It was an epic 
in which there was, of course, superhuman machinery 
but of which the subject was man, and, notable circum 
stance, the Hero was a man as well. Like Buddhism, it 
gave the highest honour to a man who could lead his 
fellow-men to perfection. What had previously been the 
divine reality the engine of nature now became a 
temporary stage, built for the exigencies of a human drama. 
What had been before a detail of the edifice the life of 
man now became the argument and purpose of the 
whole creation. Notable transformation, on which the 
philosopher cannot meditate too much. 

Was Christianity right in saying that the world was 
made for man ? Was the account it adopted of the 
method and causes of creation conceivably correct ? 
Was the garden of Eden a historical reality, and were the 
Hebrew prophecies announcements of the advent of Jesus 
Christ ? Did the deluge come because of man s wickedness, 
and will the last day coincide with the dramatic denoument 
of church history ? In other words, is the spiritual 
experience of man the explanation of the universe ? 
Certainly not, if we are thinking of a scientific, not of a 
poetical explanation. As a matter of fact, man is a product 
of laws which must also destroy him, and which, as Spinoza 
would say, infinitely exceed him in their scope and power. 


His welfare is indifferent to the stars, but dependent on 
them. And yet that counter-Copernican revolution accom 
plished by Christianity a revolution which Kant should 
hardly have attributed to himself which put man in 
the centre of the universe and made the stars circle 
about him, must have some kind of justification. And 
indeed its justification (if we may be so brief on so great a 
subject) is that what is false in the science of facts may 
be true in the science of values. While the existence of 
things must be understood by referring them to their 
causes, which are mechanical, their functions can only be 
explained by what is interesting in their results ; in other 
words, by their relation to human nature and to human 

The Christian drama was a magnificent poetic rendering 
of this side of the matter, a side which Socrates had en 
visaged by his admirable method, but which now flooded 
the consciousness of mankind with torrential emotions. 
Christianity was born under an eclipse, when the light of 
nature was obscured ; but the orb that intercepted that 
light was itself luminous, and shed on succeeding ages a 
moonlike radiance, paler and sadder than the other, but 
no less divine, and meriting no less to be eternal. Man 
now studied his own destiny, as he had before studied the 
sky, and the woods, and the sunny depths of water ; and 
as the earlier study produced in his soul anima naturaliter 
poeta the images of Zeus, Pan, and Nereus, so the later 
study produced the images of Jesus and of Mary, of heaven 
and hell, of miracles and sacraments. The observation 
was no less exact, the translation into poetic images no less 
wonderful here than there. To trace the endless trans 
figuration, with all its unconscious ingenuity and harmony, 
might be the theme of a fascinating science. Let not the 
reader fancy that in Christianity everything was settled 
by records and traditions. The idea of Christ himself 
had to be constructed by the imagination in response to 
moral demands, tradition giving only the barest external 
points of attachment. The facts were nothing until they 
became symbols ; and nothing could turn them into 
symbols except an eager imagination on the watch for all 
that might embody its dreams. 


The crucifixion, for example, would remain a tragic 
incident without further significance if we regaid it merely 
as a historical fact ; to make it a religious mystery, an 
idea capable of converting the world, the moral imagination 
must transform it into something that happens for the sake 
of the soul, so that each believer may say to himself that 
Christ so suffered for the love of him. And such a thought 
is surely the obj edification of an inner impulse ; the idea 
of Christ becomes something spiritual, something poetical. 
What literal meaning could there be in saying that one man 
or one God died for the sake of each and every other 
individual ? By what effective causal principle could 
their salvation be thought to necessitate his death, or his 
death to make possible their salvation ? By an vorrepov 
7rp6rpov natural to the imagination ; for in truth the matter 
is reversed. Christ s death is a symbol of human life. 
Men could " believe in " his death, because it was a figure 
and premonition of the burden of their experience. That 
is why, when some Apostle told them the story, they could 
say to him : " Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet : 
thou hast told me all things whatsoever I have felt." 
Thus the central fact of ah 1 Christ s history, narrated by 
every Evangelist, could still be nothing but a painful 
incident, as unessential to the Christian religion as the death 
of Socrates to the Socratic philosophy, were it not trans 
formed by the imagination of the believer into the counter 
part of his own moral need. Then, by ceasing to be 
viewed merely as a historical fact, the death of Christ 
becomes a religious inspiration. The whole of Christian 
doctrine is thus religious and efficacious only when it 
becomes poetry. 

Take, as another example, the doctrine of eternal 
rewards and punishments. Many perplexed Christians 
of our day try to reconcile this spirited fable with their 
modern horror of physical suffering and their detestation of 
cruelty ; and it must be admitted that the image of men 
suffering unending tortures in retribution for a few ignorant 
and sufficiently wretched sins is, even as poetry, somewhat 
repellent. The idea of torments and vengeance is happily 
becoming alien to our society, and is therefore not a natural 
vehicle for our religion. Some accordingly reject altogether 


the Christian doctrine on this point, which is too strong 
for their nerves. Their objection, of course, is not simply 
that there is no evidence of its truth. If they asked for 
evidence, would they believe anything ? Proofs are the 
last thing looked for by a truly religious mind which feels 
the imaginative fitness of its faith and knows instinctively 
that, in such a matter, imaginative fitness is all that can be 
required. The reason men reject the doctrine of eternal 
punishment is that they find it distasteful or unmeaning. 
They show, by the nature of their objections, that they 
acknowledge poetic propriety or moral truth to be the sole 
criterion of credibility in religion. 

But, passing over the change of sentiment which gives 
rise to this change of doctrine, let us inquire of what reality 
Christian eschatology was the imaginative rendering. 
What was it in the actual life of men that made them think 
of themselves as hanging between eternal bliss and eternal 
perdition ? Was it not the diversity, the momentousness, 
and the finality of their experience here ? No doubt the 
desire to make the reversal of the injustices of this world 
as melodramatic and picturesque as possible contributed 
to the adoption of this idea ; the ideal values of life were 
thus contrasted with its apparent values in the most absolute 
and graphic manner. But we may say that beneath this 
motive, based on the exigences of exposition and edification, 
there was a deeper intuition. There was the genuine 
moralist s sympathy with a philosophic and logical view of 
immortality rather than with a superstitious and senti 
mental one. Another life exists and is infinitely more 
important than this life ; but it is reached by the intuition 
of ideals, not by the multiplication of phenomena ; it is 
an eternal state not an indefinite succession of changes. 
Transitory life ends for the Christian when the balance- 
sheet of his individual merits and demerits is made up, and 
the eternity that ensues is the eternal reality of those 

For the Oriental, who believed in transmigration, the 
individual dissolved into an infinity of phases ; he went on 
actually and perpetually, as nature does ; his immortality 
was a long purgatory behind which a shadowy hell and 
heaven scarcely appeared in the form of annihilation or 



absorption. This happened because the oriental mmd 
has no middle ; it oscillates between extremes and passes 
directly from sense to mysticism, and back again ; it lacks 
virile understanding and intelligence creative of form. 
But Christianity, following in this the Socratic philosophy, 
rose to the conception of eternal essences, forms suspended 
above the flux of natural things and expressing the ideal 
suggestions and rational goals of experience. Each man, 
for Christianity, has an immortal soul ; each life has the 
potentiality of an eternal meaning, and as this potentiality 
is or is not actualized, as this meaning is or is not expressed 
in the phenomena of this life, the soul is eternally saved or 
lost. As the tree falleth, so it lieth. The finality of this 
brief and personal experiment, the consequent awful 
solemnity of the hour of death when all trial is over and 
when the eternal sentence is passed, has always been duly 
felt by the Christian. The church, indeed, in answer to 
the demand for a more refined and discriminating presenta 
tion of its dogma, introduced the temporary discipline of 
purgatory, in which the virtues already stamped on the 
soul might be brought to greater clearness and rid of the 
alloy of imperfection ; but this purification allowed no 
essential development, no change of character or fate ; the 
soul in purgatory was already saved, already holy. 

The harshness of the doctrine of eternal judgment is 
therefore a consequence of its symbolic truth. The church 
might have been less absolute in the matter had she yielded 
more, as she did in the doctrine of purgatory, to the desire 
for merely imaginary extensions of human experience. 
But her better instincts kept her, after all, to the moral 
interpretation of reality ; and the facts to be rendered were 
uncompromising enough. Art is long, life brief. To have / 
told men they would have infinite opportunities to reform 
and to advance would have been to feed them on gratuitous 
fictions without raising them, as it was the function of 
Christianity to do, to a consciousness of the spiritual 
meaning and upshot of existence. To have speculated 
about the infinite extent of experience and its endless 
transformations, after the manner of the barbarous religions, 
and never to have conceived its moral essence, would have 
been to encourage a dream which may by chance be 


prophetic, but which is as devoid of ideal meaning as of 
empirical probability. Christian fictions were at least 
significant ; they beguiled the intellect, no doubt, and 
were mistaken for accounts of external fact ; but they 
enlightened the imagination ; they made man understand, 
as never before or since, the pathos and nobility of his life, 
the necessity of discipline, the possibility of sanctity. 
The divine was reached by the idealization of the human. 
The supernatural was an allegory of the natural, and 
rendered the values of transitory things under the image of 
eternal existences. 


WHEN the Jewish notion of creation and divine government 
of the world presented itself to the Greeks, they hastened 
to assimilate it to their familiar notions of imitation, ex 
pression, finality, and significance. And when the Chris 
tians spoke of Christ as the Son of God, who now sat at 
his right hand in the heavens, their Platonic disciples 
immediately thought of the Nous or Logos, the divine 
Intelligence, incarnate as they had always believed in the 
whole world, and yet truly the substance and essence of 
divinity. To say that this incarnation had taken place 
pre-eminently, or even exclusively, in Christ was not an 
impossible concession to make to pious enthusiasm, at 
least if the philosophy involved in the old conception could 
be retained and embodied in the new orthodoxy. Sacred 
history could thus be interpreted as a temporal execution 
of eternal decrees, and the plan of salvation as an ideal 
necessity. Cosmic scope and metaphysical meaning were 
given to Hebrew tenets, so unspeculative in their original 
intention, and it became possible even for a Platonic 
philosopher to declare himself a Christian. 

The eclectic Christian philosophy thus engendered 
constitutes one of the most complete, elaborate, and 
impressive products of the human mind. The ruins of 
more than one civilization and of more than one philosophy 
were ransacked to furnish materials for this heavenly 


Byzantium. It was a myth circumstantial and sober 
enough in tone to pass for an account of facts, and yet 
loaded with enough miracle, poetry, and submerged 
wisdom to take the place of a moral philosophy and present 
what seemed at the time an adequate ideal to the heart. 
Many a mortal, in all subsequent ages, perplexed and 
abandoned in this ungovernable world, has set sail resolutely 
for that enchanted island and found there a semblance of 
happiness, its narrow limits give so much room for the 
soul and its penitential soil breeds so many consolations. 
True, the brief time and narrow argument into which 
Christian imagination squeezes the world must seem to a 
speculative pantheist childish and poor, involving, as it 
does, a fatuous perversion of nature and history and a 
ridiculous emphasis laid on local events and partial interests. 
Yet just this violent reduction of things to a human stature, 
this half-innocent, half-arrogant assumption that what is 
important for a man must control the whole universe, is 
what made Christian philosophy originally appealing and 
what still arouses, in certain quarters, enthusiastic belief 
in its beneficence and finality. 

Nor should we wonder at this enduring illusion. Man 
is still in his childhood ; for he cannot respect an ideal 
which is not imposed on him against his will, nor can he 
find satisfaction in a good created by his own action. He 
is afraid of a universe that leaves him alone. Freedom 
appals him ; he can apprehend in it nothing but tedium 
and desolation, so immature is he and so barren does he 
think himself to be. He has to imagine what the angels 
would say, so that his own good impulses (which create 
those angels) may gain in authority, and none of the dangers 
that surround his poor life make the least impression upon 
him until he hears that there are hobgoblins hiding in the 
wood. His moral life, to take shape at all, must appear 
to him in fantastic symbols. The history of these symbols 
is therefore the history of his soul. 

There was in the beginning, so runs the Christian story 
a great celestial King, wise and good, surrounded by a court 
of winged musicians and messengers. He had existed 
from all eternity, but had always intended, when the right 
moment should come, to create temporal beings, imperfect 


copies of himself in various degrees. These, of which man 
was the chief, began their career in the year 4004 B.C., and 
they would live on an indefinite time, possibly, that 
chronological symmetry might not be violated, until 
A.D. 4004. The opening and close of this drama were 
marked by two magnificent tableaux. In the first, in 
obedience to the word of God, sun, moon, and stars, and 
earth with all her plants and animals, assumed their 
appropriate places, and nature sprang into being with all 
her laws. The first man was made out of clay, by a special 
act of God, and the first woman was fashioned from one 
of his ribs, extracted while he lay in a deep sleep. They 
were placed in an orchard where they often could see God, 
its owner, walking in the cool of the evening. He suffered 
them to range at will and eat of all the fruits he had planted 
save that of one tree only. But they, incited by a devil, 
transgressed this single prohibition, and were banished 
from that paradise with a curse upon their head, the man 
to live by the sweat of his brow and the woman to bear 
children in labour. These children possessed from the 
moment of conception the inordinate natures which their 
parents had acquired. They were born to sin and to find 
disorder and death everywhere within and without them. 

At the same time God, lest the work of his hands should 
wholly perish, promised to redeem in his good season some 
of Adam s children and restore them to a natural life. 
This redemption was to come ultimately through a de 
scendant of Eve, whose foot should bruise the head of the 
serpent. But it was to be prefigured by many partial 
and special redemptions. Thus, Noah was to be saved 
from the deluge, Lot from Sodom, Isaac from the sacrifice, 
Moses from Egypt, the captive Jews from Babylon, and 
all faithful souls from heathen forgetfulness and idolatry. 
For a certain tribe had been set apart from the begin 
ning to keep alive the memory of God s judgments and 
promises, while the rest of mankind, abandoned to its 
natural depravity, sank deeper and deeper into crimes 
and vanities. The deluge that came to punish these evils 
did not avail to cure them. " The world was renewed 1 
and the earth rose again above the bosom of the waters, 

1 Bossuet, Discours sur I histoire universelle, Part. II. chap. i. 


but in this renovation there remained eternally some trace 
of divine vengeance. Until the deluge all nature had 
been exceedingly hardy and vigorous, but by that vast 
flood of water which God had spread out over the earth, 
and by its long abiding there, all saps were diluted ; the 
air, charged with too dense and heavy a moisture, bred 
ranker principles of corruption. The early constitution 
of the universe was weakened, and human life, from 
stretching as it had formerly done to near a thousand years, 
grew gradually briefer. Herbs and roots lost their primitive 
potency and stronger food had to be furnished to man by 
the flesh of other animals. . . . Death gained upon life 
and men felt themselves overtaken by a speedier chastise 
ment. As day by day they sank deeper in their wickedness, 
it was but right they should daily, as it were, stick faster 
in their woe. The very change in nourishment made 
manifest their decline and degradation, since as they 
became feebler they became also more voracious and blood 

Henceforth there were two spirits, two parties, or, as 
Saint Augustine called them, two cities in the world. 
The City of Satan, whatever its artifices in art, war, or 
philosophy, was essentially corrupt and impious. Its 
joy was but a comic mask and its beauty the whitening of 
a sepulchre. It stood condemned before God and before 
man s better conscience by its vanity, cruelty, and secret 
misery, by its ignorance of all that it truly behoved a man 
to know who was destined to immortality. Lost, as it 
seemed, within this Babylon, or visible only in its obscure 
and forgotten purlieus, lived on at the same time the City 
of God, the society of all the souls God predestined to 
salvation ; a city which, however humble and inconspicuous 
it might seem on earth, counted its myriad transfigured 
citizens in heaven, and had its destinies, like its foundations, 
in eternity. To this City of God belonged, in the first 
place, the patriarchs and the prophets who, throughout 
their plaintive and ardent lives, were faithful to what 
echoes still remained of a primeval revelation, and waited 
patiently for the greater revelation to come. To the same 
city belonged the magi who followed a star till it halted 
over the stable in Bethlehem ; Simeon, who divined the 


present salvation of Israel ; John the Baptist, who bore 
witness to the same and made straight its path ; and 
Peter, to whom not flesh and blood, but the spirit of the 
Father in heaven, revealed the Lord s divinity. For 
salvation had indeed come with the fulness of time, not, 
as the carnal Jews had imagined it, in the form of an earthly 
restoration, but through the incarnation of the Son of God 
in the Virgin Mary, his death upon a cross, his descent into 
hell, and his resurrection at the third day according to the 
Scriptures. To the same city belonged finally all those 
who, believing in the reality and efficacy of Christ s mission, 
relied on his merits and followed his commandment of 
unearthly love. 

All history was henceforth essentially nothing but the 
conflict between these two cities ; two moralities, one 
natural, the other supernatural ; two philosophies, one 
rational, the other revealed ; two beauties, one corporeal, 
the other spiritual ; two glories, one temporal, the other 
eternal ; two institutions, one the world, the other the 
church. These, whatever their momentary alliances or 
compromises, were radically opposed and fundamentally 
alien to one another. Their conflict was to fill the ages 
until, when wheat and tares had long flourished together 
and exhausted between them the earth for whose substance 
they struggled, the harvest should come ; the terrible day 
of reckoning when those who had believed the things of 
religion to be imaginary would behold with dismay the 
Lord visibly coming down through the clouds of heaven, 
the angels blowing their alarming trumpets, all generations 
of the dead rising from their graves, and judgment without 
appeal passed on every man, to the edification of the 
universal company and his own unspeakable joy or con 
fusion. Whereupon the blessed would enter eternal bliss 
with God their master and the wicked everlasting torments 
with the devil whom they served. 

The drama of history was thus to close upon a second 
tableau : long-robed and beatified cohorts passing above, 
amid various psalmodies, into an infinite luminous space, 
while below the damned, howling, writhing, and half 
transformed into loathsome beasts, should be engulfed in 
a fiery furnace. The two cities, always opposite in essence, 


should thus be finally divided in existence, each bearing 
its natural fruits and manifesting its true nature. 

Let the reader fill out this outline for himself with its 
thousand details ; let him remember the endless mysteries, 
arguments, martyrdoms, consecrations that carried out 
the sense and made vital the beauty of the whole. Let 
him pause before the phenomenon ; he can ill afford, 
if he wishes to understand history or the human mind, 
to let the apparition float by unchallenged without deliver 
ing up its secret. What shall we say of this Christian 
dream ? 

Those who are still troubled by the fact that this dream 
is by many taken for a reality, and who are consequently 
obliged to defend themselves against it, as against some 
dangerous error in science or in philosophy, may be allowed 
to marshal arguments in its disproof. Such, however, is 
not my intention. Do we marshal arguments against the 
miraculous birth of Buddha, or the story of Cronos devour 
ing his children ? We seek rather to honour the piety and 
to understand the poetry embodied in those fables. If it 
be said that those fables are believed by no one, I reply 
that those fables are or have been believed just as un 
hesitatingly as the Christian theology, and by men no less 
reasonable or learned than the unhappy apologists of our 
own ancestral creeds. Matters of religion should never 
be matters of controversy. We neither argue with a 
lover about his taste, nor condemn him, if we are just, 
for knowing so human a passion. That he harbours it is no 
indication of a want of sanity on his part in other matters. 
But while we acquiesce in his experience, and are glad he 
has it, we need no arguments to dissuade us from sharing 
it. Each man may have his own loves, but the object 
in each case is different. And so it is, or should be, in 
religion. Before the rise of those strange and fraudulent 
Hebraic pretensions there was no question among men 
about the national, personal, and poetic character of 
religious allegiance. It could never have been a duty to 
adopt a religion not one s own any more than a language, 
a coinage, or a costume not current in one s own country. 
The idea that religion contains a literal, not a symbolic, 
representation of truth and life is simply an impossible idea. 


Whoever entertains it has not come within the region of 
profitable philosophizing on that subject. His science is not 
wide enough to cover all existence. He has not discovered 
that there can be no moral allegiance except to the ideal. 
His certitude and his arguments are no more pertinent to 
the religious question than would be the insults, blows, 
and murders to which, if he could, he would appeal in the 
next instance. Philosophy may describe unreason, as it 
may describe force ; it cannot hope to refute them. 


THE western intellect, in order to accept the gospel, had 
to sublimate it into a neo-Platonic system of metaphysics. 
In like manner the western heart had to render Christianity 
congenial and adequate by a rich infusion of pagan custom 
and sentiment. This adaptation was more gentle and 
facile than might be supposed. We are too much inclined 
to impute an abstract and ideal Christianity to the polyglot 
souls of early Christians, and to ignore that mysterious 
and miraculous side of later paganism from which Christian 
cultus and ritual are chiefly derived. In the third century 
Christianity and devout paganism were, in a religious sense, 
closely akin ; each differed much less from the other than 
from that religion which at other epochs had borne or 
should bear its own name. Had Julian the Apostate 
succeeded in his enterprise he would not have rescued 
anything which the admirers of classic paganism could at 
all rejoice in ; a disciple of lamblichus could not but plunge 
headlong into the same sea of superstition and dialectic 
which had submerged Christianity. Reason had suffered 
a general eclipse, but civilization, although decayed, still 
subsisted, and a certain scholastic discipline, a certain 
speculative habit, and many an ancient religious usage 
remained in the world. The people could change their 
gods, but not the spirit in which they worshipped them. 
Christianity had insinuated itself almost unobserved into 
a society full of rooted traditions. The first disciples had 


been disinherited Jews, with religious habits which men 
of other races and interests could never have adopted 
intelligently; the church was accordingly wise enough to 
perpetuate in its practice at least an indispensable minimum 
of popular paganism. 

Any one who enters a Catholic church with an intelligent 
interpreter will at once perceive the immense distance 
which separates the official and impersonal ritual sung 
behind the altar rails from the daily prayers and practices 
of Catholic people. The latter refer to the real exigences 
of daily life and serve to express or reorganize personal 
passions. While mass is being celebrated the old woman 
will tell her beads, lost in a vague rumination over her own 
troubles ; while the priests chant something unintelligible 
about Abraham or Nebuchadnezzar, the housewife will 
light her wax candles, duly blessed for the occasion, 
before Saint Barbara, to be protected thereby from the 
lightning ; and while the preacher is repeating, by rote, 
dialectical subtleties about the union of the two natures 
in Christ s person, a listener s fancy may float sadly over 
the mystery of love and of life, and (being himself without 
resources in the premises) he may order a mass to be said 
for the repose of some departed soul. 

In a Catholic country every spot and every man has 
a particular patron. These patrons are sometimes local 
worthies, canonized by tradition or by the Roman see, but 
no less often they are simply local appellations of Christ 
or the Virgin, appellations which are known theoretically 
to refer all to the same numen, but which practically possess 
diverse religious values ; for the miracles and intercessions 
attributed to the Virgin under one title are far from being 
miracles and intercessions attributable to her under 
another. He who has been all his life devout to Loreto 
will not place any special reliance on the Pillar at Saragossa. 
A bereaved mother will not fly to the Immaculate Con 
ception for comfort, but of course to Our Lady of the 
Seven Sorrows. Each religious order and all the laity 
more or less affiliated to it will cultivate special saints and 
special mysteries. There are also particular places and 
days on which graces are granted, as not on others, and 
the quantity of such graces is measurable by canonic 


standards. So many days of remitted penance correspond 
to a work of a certain merit, for there is a celestial currency 
in which mulcts and remissions may be accurately summed 
and subtracted by angelic recorders. One man s spiritual 
earnings may by gift be attributed and imputed to another, 
a belief which may seem arbitrary and superstitious but 
which is really a natural corollary to fundamental doctrines 
like the atonement, the communion of saints, and inter 
cession for the dead and living. 

Another phase of the same natural religion is seen in 
frequent festivals, in the consecration of buildings, ships, 
fields, labours, and seasons ; in intercessions by the greater 
dead for the living and by the living for the lesser dead 
a perfect survival of heroes and penates on the one hand and 
of pagan funeral rites and commemorations on the other. 
Add Lent with its carnival, ember-days, all saints and all 
souls , Christmas with its magi or its Saint Nicholas, Saint 
Agnes s and Saint Valentine s days with their profane 
associations, a saint for finding lost objects and another 
for prospering amourettes, since all great and tragic loves 
have their inevitable patrons in Christ and the Virgin, 
in Mary Magdalene, and in the mystics innumerable. 
This, with what more could easily be rehearsed, makes a 
complete paganism within Christian tradition, a paganism 
for which little basis can be found in the gospel, the mass, 
the breviary, or the theologians. 

Yet these accretions were as well authenticated as the 
substructure, for they rested on human nature. To feel, 
for instance, the special efficacy of your village Virgin or 
of the miraculous Christ whose hermitage is perched on 
the overhanging hill, is a genuine experience. The principle 
of it is clear and simple. Those shrines, those images, the 
festivals associated with them, have entered your mind 
together with your earliest feelings. Your first glimpses of 
mortal vicissitudes have coincided with the awe and glitter 
of sacramental moments in which those numina were 
invoked ; and on that deeper level of experience, in those 
lower reaches of irrationalism in which such impressions 
lie, they constitute a mystic resource subsisting beneath 
all conventions and overt knowledge. When the doctors 
blunder as they commonly do the saints may find a 


cure ; after all, the saints success in medicine seems to a 
crude empiricism almost as probable as the physicians . 
Special and local patrons are the original gods, and whatever 
religious value speculative and cosmic deities retain they 
retain surreptitiously, by virtue of those very bonds with 
human interests and passionate desires which ancestral 
demons once borrowed from the hearth they guarded, the 
mountain they haunted, or the sacrifice they inhaled 
with pleasure, until their hearts softened toward their 


As the God of religion differs from that of metaphysics, so 
does the Christ of tradition differ from that of our critical 
historians. Even if we took the literal narrative of the 
Gospels and accepted it as all we could know of Christ, 
without allowing ourselves any imaginative interpretation 
of the central figure, we should get an ideal of him, I will 
not say very different from that familiar to St. Francis 
or St. Theresa, but even from that in the English prayer- 
book. The Christ men have loved and adored is an ideal 
of their own hearts, the construction of an ever-present 
personality, living and intimately understood, out of the 
fragments of story and doctrine connected with a name. 
This subjective image has inspired all the prayers, all the 
conversions, all the penances, charities, and sacrifices, as 
well as half the art of the Christian world. 

The Virgin Mary, whose legend is so meagre, but whose 
power over the Catholic imagination is so great, is an 
even clearer illustration of this inward building up of an 
ideal form. Everything is here spontaneous sympathetic 
expansion of two given events : the incarnation and the 
crucifixion. The figure of the Virgin, found in these 
mighty scenes, is gradually clarified and developed, until 
we come to the thought on the one hand of her freedom 
from original sin, and on the other to that of her universal 
maternity. We thus attain the conception of one of the 
noblest of conceivable roles and of one of the most beautiful 


of characters. It is a pity that a foolish iconoclasm should 
so long have deprived the Protestant mind of the con 
templation of this ideal. 

Perhaps it is a sign of the average imaginative dulness 
or fatigue of certain races and epochs that they so readily 
abandon these supreme creations. For, if we are hopeful, 
why should we not believe that the best we can fancy is also 
the truest ; and if we are distrustful in general of our 
prophetic gifts, why should we cling only to the most mean 
and formless of our illusions ? From the beginning to the 
end of our perceptive and imaginative activity, we are 
synthesizing the material of experience into unities the 
independent reality of which is beyond proof, nay, beyond 
the possibility of a shadow of evidence. And yet the life 
of intelligence, like the joy of contemplation, lies entirely 
in the formation and inter-relation of these unities. This 
activity yields us all the images which we can compose, 
and endows them with the finer and more intimate part of 
their beauty. The most perfect of these forms, judged by 
its affinity to our powers and its stability in the presence of 
our experience, is the one with which we should be content ; 
no other kind of veracity could add to its value. 

The greatest feats of synthesis which the human mind 
has yet accomplished will, indeed, be probably surpassed 
and all ideals yet formed be superseded, because they were 
not based upon enough experience, or did not fit that 
experience with adequate precision. It is also possible 
that changes in the character of the facts, or in the powers 
of intelligence, should necessitate a continual reconstruc 
tion of our world. But unless human nature suffers an in 
conceivable change, the chief intellectual and aesthetic value 
of our ideas will always come from the creative action of the 


To a person sufficiently removed by time or by philosophy 
from the controversies of sects, orthodoxy must always 
appear right and heresy wrong ; for he sees in orthodoxy 


the product of the creative mind, of faith and constructive 
logic, but in heresy only the rebellion of some partial 
interest or partial insight against the corollaries of a 
formative principle imperfectly grasped and obeyed with 
hesitation. At a distance, the criticism that disintegrates 
any great product of art or mind must always appear 
short-sighted and unamiable. Socrates, invoking the local 
deities of brooks and meadows, or paying the debt of a 
cock to Asclepius (in thanksgiving, it is said, for a happy 
death), is more reasonable and noble to our mind than 
are the hard denials of Xenophanes or Theodorus. Nor 
were the heretics of a later age less unintelligent. The 
principle by which the Christian system had developed, 
although reapplied by the Protestants to their own inner 
life, was not understood by them in its historical applica 
tions. They had little sympathy with the spiritual needs 
and habits of that pagan society in which Christianity had 
grown up. That society had found in Christianity a sort 
of last love, a rejuvenating supersensible hope, and had 
bequeathed to the gospel of redemption, for its better 
embodiment and ornament, all its own wealth of art, 
philosophy, and devotion. This embodiment of Christianity 
represented a civilization through which the Teutonic 
races had not passed and which they never could have 
produced ; it appealed to a kind of imagination and senti 
ment which was foreign to them. This embodiment, 
accordingly, was the object of their first and fiercest attack, 
really because it was unsympathetic to their own tempera 
ment but ostensibly because they could not find its basis 
in those Hebraic elements of Christianity which make up 
the greater bulk of the Bible. They did not value the 
sublime aspiration of Christianity to be not something 
Hebraic or Teutonic but something catholic and human ; 
and they blamed everything which went beyond the 
accidental limits of their own sympathies and the narrow 
scope of their own experience. 

Yet it was only by virtue of this complement inherited 
from paganism, or at least supplied by the instincts and 
traditions on which paganism had reposed, that Christianity 
could claim to approach a humane universality or to achieve 
an imaginative adequacy. 


Nor was it right or fitting to make a merely theoretical 
or ethical synthesis. Doctrine must find its sensible echo 
in worship, in art, in the feasts and fasts of the year. 
Only when thus permeating life and expressing itself to 
every sense and faculty can a religion be said to have 
reached completion ; only then has the imagination 
exhausted its means of utterance. 

The great success which Christianity achieved in this 
immense undertaking makes it, after classic antiquity, 
the most important phase in the history of mankind. It 
is clear, however, that this success was not complete. 
That fallacy from which the pagan religion alone has been 
free, that TT/JWTOI/ \pevSos of all fanaticism, the natural 
but hopeless misunderstanding of imagining that poetry 
in order to be religion, in order to be the inspiration of life, 
must first deny that it is poetry and deceive us about the 
facts with which we have to deal this misunderstanding 
has marred the work of the Christian imagination and 
condemned it, if we may trust appearances, to be transitory. 
For by this misunderstanding Christian doctrine was brought 
into conflict with reality, of which it pretends to prejudge 
the character, and also into conflict with what might have 
been its own elements, with all excluded religious instincts 
and imaginative ideals. Human life is always essentially 
the same, and therefore a religion which, like Christianity, 
seizes the essence of that life, ought to be an eternal religion. 
But it may forfeit that privilege by entangling itself with 
a particular account of matters of fact, matters irrelevant 
to its ideal significance, and further by intrenching itself, 
by virtue of that entanglement, in an inadequate regimen 
or a too narrow imaginative development, thus putting its 
ideal authority in jeopardy by opposing it to other in 
tuitions and practices no less religious than its own. 

Can Christianity escape these perils ? Can it reform its 
claims, or can it overwhelm all opposition and take the 
human heart once more by storm ? The future alone can 
decide. The greatest calamity, however, would be that 
which seems, alas ! not unlikely to befall our immediate 
posterity, namely, that while Christianity should be 
discredited, no other religion, more disillusioned and not 
less inspired, should come to take its place. Until the 


imagination should have time to recover and to reassert its 
legitimate and kindly power, the European races would 
then be reduced to confessing that while they had mastered 
the mechanical forces of nature, both by science and by 
the arts, they had become incapable of mastering or under 
standing themselves, and that, bewildered like the beasts 
by the revolutions of the heavens and by their own irrational 
passions, they could find no way of uttering the ideal mean 
ing of their life. 


TAKEN externally, Protestantism is, of course, a form of 
Christianity ; it retains the Bible and a more or less copious 
selection of patristic doctrines. But in its spirit and 
inward inspiration it is something quite as independent 
of Judea as of Rome. Its character may be indicated by 
saying that it builds religion on conscience, on an emotional 
freedom deeply respecting itself but scarcely deciphering 
its purposes. It is the self-consciousness of a spirit in 
process of incubation, jealous of its potentialities, averse 
to definitions and externalities of any kind because it can 
itself discern nothing fixed or final. It is adventurous and 
puzzled by the world, full of rudimentary virtues and 
clear fire, energetic, faithful, rebellious to cynical sugges 
tions, inexpert in matters of art and mind. It boasts, not 
without cause, of its depth and purity ; but this depth and 
purity are those of any formless and primordial substance. 
It keeps unsullied that antecedent integrity which is at 
the bottom of every living thing and at its core ; it is not 
acquainted with that ulterior integrity, that sanctity, 
which might be attained at the summit of experience 
through renunciation and speculative dominion. It accord 
ingly mistakes vitality, both in itself and in the universe, 
for spiritual life. 

This underlying Teutonic mood, which we must call 
Protestantism for lack of a better name, is anterior to 
Christianity and can survive it. To identify it with the 
gospel may have seemed possible so long as, in opposition 


to pagan Christianity, the Teutonic spirit could appeal to 
the gospel for support. The gospel has indeed nothing 
pagan about it, but it has also nothing Teutonic ; and the 
momentary alliance of two such disparate forces must 
naturally cease with the removal of the common enemy 
which alone united them. The gospel is unworldly, dis 
enchanted, ascetic ; it treats ecclesiastical establishments 
with tolerant contempt, conforming to them with in 
difference ; it regards prosperity as a danger, earthly 
ties as a burden, Sabbaths as a superstition ; it revels 
in miracles ; it is democratic and antinomian ; it loves 
contemplation, poverty, and solitude ; it meets sinners 
with sympathy and heartfelt forgiveness, but Pharisees 
and Puritans with biting scorn. In a word, it is a product 
of the East, where all things are old and equal and a 
profound indifference to the business of earth breeds a 
silent dignity and high sadness in the spirit. Protestantism 
is the exact opposite of all this. It is convinced of the 
importance of success and prosperity ; it abominates 
what is disreputable ; contemplation seems to it idleness, 
solitude selfishness, and poverty a sort of dishonour 
able punishment. It is constrained and punctilious in 
righteousness ; it regards a married and industrious life 
as typically godly, and there is a sacredness to it, as of a 
vacant Sabbath, in the unoccupied higher spaces which 
such an existence leaves for the soul. It is sentimental, 
its ritual is meagre and unctuous, it expects no miracles, 
it thinks optimism akin to piety, and regards profit 
able enterprise and practical ambition as a sort of moral 
vocation. Its Evangelicalism lacks the notes, so prominent 
in the gospel, of disillusion, humility, and speculative 
detachment. Its benevolence is optimistic and aims at 
raising men to a conventional well-being ; it thus misses 
the inner appeal of Christian charity which, being merely 
remedial in physical matters, begins by renunciation and 
looks to spiritual freedom and peace. 

Protestantism was therefore attached from the first to 
the Old Testament, in which Hebrew fervour appears in 
its worldly and pre-rational form. It is not democratic 
in the same sense as post-rational religions, which see in 
the soul an exile from some other sphere wearing for the 



moment, perhaps, a beggar s disguise : it is democratic 
only in the sense of having a popular origin and bending 
easily to popular forces. Swayed as it is by public opinion, 
it is necessarily conventional in its conception of duty and 
earnestly materialistic ; for the meaning of the word vanity 
never crosses the vulgar heart. In fine, it is the religion 
of a race young, wistful, and adventurous, feeling its 
latent potentialities, vaguely assured of an earthly vocation, 
and possessing, like the barbarian and the healthy child, 
pure but unchastened energies. 

Protestantism in its vital elements was thus a perfectly 
new, a perfectly spontaneous religion. The illusion that 
it was a return to primitive Christianity was useful for 
controversial purposes and helped to justify the iconoclastic 
passions of the time ; but this illusion did not touch the 
true essence of Protestantism, nor the secret of its legitimacy 
and power as a religion. Indeed we may say that the 
typical Protestant was himself his own church and made 
the selection and interpretation of tradition according to 
the demands of his personal spirit. 

Protestantism has the unmistakable character of a 
genuine religion, a character which tradition passively 
accepted and dogma regarded as so much external truth 
may easily forfeit. It is in correspondence with the 
actual ideals and instincts of the believer ; it is the self- 
assertion of a living soul. Its meagreness and eccentricity 
are simply evidences of its personal basis. It is in full 
harmony with the practical impulses it comes to sanction, 
and accordingly it gains in efficiency all that it loses in 
dignity or truth. 

It was this youthful religion profound, barbaric, 
poetical that the Teutonic races insinuated into Chris 
tianity and substituted for that last sigh of two expir 
ing worlds. In the end, with the complete crumbling 
away of Christian dogma and tradition, Absolute Egotism 
appeared openly on the surface in the shape of German 
philosophy. This form, which Protestantism assumed at 
a moment of high tension and reckless self-sufficiency, it 
will doubtless shed in turn and take on new expressions ; 
but that declaration of independence on the part of the 
Teutonic spirit marks emphatically its exit from Christianity 


and the end of that series of transformations in which 
it took the Bible and patristic dogma for its materials. 
It now bids fair to apply itself instead to social life and 
natural science and to attempt to feed its Protean hunger 
directly from these more homely sources. 

The patristic systems, though weak in their foundations, 
were extraordinarily wise and comprehensive in their 
working out ; and while they inverted life they preserved 
it. Dogma added to the universe fabulous perspectives ; it 
interpolated also innumerable incidents and powers which 
gave a new dimension to experience. Yet the old world 
remained standing in its strange setting, like the Pantheon 
in modern Rome ; and, what is more important, the 
natural springs of human action were still acknowledged, 
and if a supernatural discipline was imposed, and the 
pursuit of earthly happiness seemed hopeless, nature was 
not destroyed by its novel expression, nor did reason die 
in the cloister : it hibernated there, and could come back 
to its own in due season, only a little dazed and weakened 
by its long confinement. Such, at least, is the situation in 
Catholic regions, where the patristic philosophy has not 
appreciably varied. Among Protestants Christian dogma 
has taken a new and ambiguous direction, which has at 
once minimized its disturbing effect in practice and isolated 
its primary illusion. The symptoms have been cured and 
the disease driven in. 


PIETY, in its nobler and Roman sense, may be said to mean 
man s reverent attachment to the sources of his being and 
the steadying of his life by that attachment. A soul is 
but the last bubble of a long fermentation in the world. 
If we wish to live associated with permanent racial interests 
we must plant ourselves on a broad historic and human 
foundation, we must absorb and interpret the past which 
has made us, so that we may hand down its heritage 
reinforced, if possible, and in no way undermined or 
denaturalized. This consciousness that the human spirit 


is derived and responsible, that all its functions are heritages 
and trusts, involves a sentiment of gratitude and duty 
which we may call piety. 

Piety esteems things apart from their intrinsic worth, 
on account of their relation to the agent s person and 
fortune. Yet such esteem is perfectly rational, partiality 
in man s affections and allegiance being justified by the 
partial nature and local status of his life. Piety is the 
spirit s acknowledgment of its incarnation. This physical 
bond should not, indeed, disturb the intellect in its proper 
function or warp its judgments ; you should not, under 
guise of tenderness, become foolish and attribute to your 
father or child greater stature or cleverness or goodness 
than he actually possesses. To do so is a natural foible 
but no part of piety or true loyalty. It is one thing to 
lack a heart and another to possess eyes and a just imagina 
tion. Indeed, piety is never so beautiful and touching, 
never so thoroughly humane and invincible, as when it is 
joined to an impartial intellect, conscious of the relativity 
involved in existence and able to elude, through imaginative 
sympathy, the limits set to personal life by circumstance 
and private duty. As a man dies nobly when, awaiting 
his own extinction, he is interested to the last in what 
will continue to be the interests and joys of others, so he 
is most profoundly pious who loves unreservedly a country, 
friends, and associations which he knows very well to be 
not the most beautiful on earth, and who, being wholly 
content in his personal capacity with his natural conditions, 
does not need to begrudge other things whatever speculative 
admiration they may truly deserve. The ideal in this 
polyglot world, where reason can receive only local and 
temporal expression, is to understand all languages and 
to speak but one, so as to unite, in a manly fashion, compre 
hension with propriety. 

Mankind at large is, to some minds, an object of piety. 
But this religion of humanity is rather a desideratum than 
a fact. Piety towards mankind must be three-fourths pity. 
There are indeed specific human virtues, but they are 
those necessary to existence, like patience and courage. 
Supported on these indispensable habits, mankind always 
carries an indefinite load of misery and vice. Life spreads 


rankly in every wrong and impracticable direction as well 
as in profitable paths, and the slow and groping struggle 
with its own ignorance, inertia, and folly, leaves it covered 
in every age of history with filth and blood. It would hardly 
be possible to exaggerate man s wretchedness if it were not 
so easy to overestimate his sensibility. There is a fond 
of unhappiness in every bosom, but the depths are seldom 
probed ; and there is no doubt that sometimes frivolity 
and sometimes sturdy habit helps to keep attention on 
the surface and to cover up the inner void. 

To worship mankind as it is would be to deprive it of 
what alone makes it akin to the divine its aspiration. 
For this human dust li ves ; this misery and crime are 
dark in contrast to an imagined excellence ; they are 
lighted up by a prospect of good. Man is not adorable, 
but he adores, and the object of his adoration may be 
discovered within him and elicited from his own soul. 
In this sense the religion of humanity is the only religion, 
all others being sparks and abstracts of the same. The 
indwelling ideal lends all the gods their divinity. No 
power, either physical or psychical, has the least moral 
prerogative nor any just place in religion at all unless it 
supports and advances the ideal native to the worshipper s 
soul. Without moral society between the votary and his 
god religion is pure idolatry ; and even idolatry would be 
impossible but for the suspicion that somehow the brute 
force exorcized in prayer might help or mar some human 

There is a philosophic piety which has the universe for 
its object. This feeling, common to ancient and modern 
Stoics, has an obvious justification in man s dependence 
upon the natural world and in its service to many sides of 
the mind. Such justification of cosmic piety is rather 
obscured than supported by the euphemisms and ambi 
guities in which these philosophers usually indulge in their 
attempt to preserve the customary religious unction. For 
the more they personify the universe and give it the name 
of God the more they turn it into a devil. The universe, 
so far as we can observe it, is a wonderful and immense 
engine ; its extent, its order, its beauty, its cruelty, make 
it alike impressive. If we dramatize its life and conceive 


its spirit, we are filled with wonder, terror, and amusement, 
so magnificent is that spirit, so prolific, inexorable, gram 
matical, and dull. Like all animals and plants, the 
cosmos has its own way of doing things, not wholly rational 
nor ideally best, but patient, fatal, and fruitful. Great 
is this organism of mud and fire, terrible this vast, painful, 
glorious experiment. Why should we not look on the 
universe with piety ? Is it not our substance ? Are we 
made of other clay ? All our possibilities lie from eternity 
hidden in its bosom. It is the dispenser of all our joys. 
We may address it without superstitious terrors ; it is not 
wicked. It follows its own habits abstractedly ; it can be 
trusted to be true to its word. Society is not impossible 
between it and us, and since it is the source of all our 
energies, the home of all our happiness, shall we not cling 
to it and praise it, seeing that it vegetates so grandly and 
so sadly, and that it is not for us to blame it for what, 
doubtless, it never knew that it did ? Where there is such 
infinite and laborious potency there is room for every hope. 
If we should abstain from judging a father s errors or a 
mother s foibles, why should we pronounce sentence on 
the ignorant crimes of the universe, which have passed 
into our own blood ? The universe is the true Adam, 
the creation the true fall ; and as we have never blamed 
our mythical first parent very much, in spite of the dis 
proportionate consequences of his sin, because we felt that 
he was but human and that we, in his place, might have 
sinned too, so we may easily forgive our real ancestor, 
whose connatural sin we are from moment to moment 
committing, since it is only the necessary rashness of 
venturing to be without fore-knowing the price or the fruits 
of existence. 


IN honouring the sources of life, piety is retrospective. It 
collects, as it were, food for morality, and fortifies it 
with natural and historic nutriment. But a digestive 
and formative principle must exist to assimilate this 


nutriment ; a direction and an ideal have to be imposed 
on these gathered forces. So that religion has a second 
and a higher side, which looks to the end toward which 
we move, as piety looks to the conditions of progress 
and to the sources from which we draw our energies. 
This aspiring side of religion may be called spirituality. 
Spirituality is nobler than piety, because what would 
fulfil our being and make it worth having is what alone 
lends value to that being s source. Nothing spiritual is 
instrumental. Spirit is the music and fruition of all 
things. The gift of existence would be worthless unless 
existence was good and supported at least a possible 
happiness. A man is spiritual when he lives in the presence 
of the ideal, and whether he eat or drink does so for the 
sake of a true and ultimate good. He is spiritual when 
he envisages his goal so frankly that his whole material 
life becomes a transparent and transitive vehicle, an instru 
ment which scarcely arrests attention but allows the spirit 
to use it economically and with perfect detachment and 

There is no need that this ideal should be pompously 
or mystically described. A simple life is its own reward, 
and continually realizes its function. Though a spiritual 
man may perfectly well go through intricate processes of 
thought and attend to very complex affairs, his single eye, 
fixed on a rational purpose, will simplify morally the natural 
chaos it looks upon and will remain free. This spiritual 
mastery is, of course, no slashing and forced synthesis of 
things into a system of philosophy which, even if it were 
thinkable, would leave the conceived logical machine 
without ideality and without responsiveness to actual 
interests ; it is rather an inward aim and fixit} in affection 
that knows what to take and what to leave in a world over 
which it diffuses something of its own peace. It threads 
its way through the landscape with so little temptation 
to distraction that it can salute every irrelevant thing, as 
Saint Francis did the sun and moon, with courtesy and a 
certain affectionate detachment. 

Spirituality likes to say, Behold the lilies of the field ! 
For its secret has the same simplicity as their vegetative 
art ; only spirituality has succeeded in adding consciousness 


without confusing instinct. This success, unfortunately 
so rare in man s life as to seem paradoxical, is its whole 
achievement. Spirituality ought to have been a matter 
of course, since conscious existence has inherent value and 
there is no intrinsic ground why it should smother that 
value in alien ambitions and servitudes. But spirituality, 
though so natural and obvious a thing, is subject, like the 
lilies beauty, to corruption. I know not what army of 
microbes evidently invaded from the beginning the soul s 
basis and devoured its tissues, so that sophistication and 
bad dreams entirely obscured her limpidity. 


IT is in the very essence of prayer to regard a denial as 
possible. There would be no sense in denning and begging 
for the better thing if that better thing had at any rate 
to be. The possibility of defeat is one of the circumstances 
with which meditation must square our hopes ; seeing 
that our prayer may not be granted, what in that case 
should we pray for next ? Now the order of nature is in 
many respects well known, and it is clear that all realizable 
wishes must not transgress certain bounds. The practical 
ideal, that which under the circumstances it is best to aim 
at and pray for, will not rebel against destiny. Conformity 
is an element in all religion and submission in all prayer ; 
not because what must be is best, but because the best that 
may be pursued rationally lies within the possible, and 
can be hatched only in the general womb of being. The 
prayer, " Thy will be done," if it is to remain a prayer, 
must not be degraded from its original meaning, which 
was that an unfulfilled ideal should be fulfilled ; it 
expressed aspiration after the best, not willingness to be 
satisfied with anything. Yet the inevitable must be 
accepted, and it is easier to change the human will than 
the laws of nature. To wean the mind from extravagant 
desires and teach it to find excellence in what life affords, 
when life is made as worthy as possible, is a part of wisdom 


and religion. Prayer, by confronting the ideal with 
experience and fate, tends to render that ideal humble, 
practical, and efficacious. 

A sense for human limitations, however, has its foil in 
the notion of deity, which is nothing but the ideal of man 
freed from those limitations which a humble and wise man 
accepts for himself, but which a spiritual man never ceases 
to feel as limitations. Man, for instance, is mortal, and 
his whole animal and social economy is built on that fact, 
GO that his practical ideal must start on that basis, and 
make the best of it ; but immortality is essentially better, 
and the eternal is in many ways constantly present to a 
noble mind ; the gods therefore are immortal, and to speak 
their language in prayer is to learn to see all things, as 
they do and as reason must, under the form of eternity. 
The gods are furthermore no respecters of persons ; they 
are just, for it is man s ideal to be so. Prayer, since it 
addresses deity, will in the end blush to be selfish and 
partial ; the majesty of the divine mind envisaged and 
consulted will tend to pass into the human mind. 

This use of prayer has not been conspicuous in Christian 
times, because, instead of assimilating the temporal to the 
eternal, men have assimilated the eternal to the temporal, 
being perturbed fanatics in religion rather than poets and 
idealists. Pagan devotion, on the other hand, was full of 
this calmer spirit. The gods, being frankly natural, could 
be truly ideal ; I mean, they could express what some 
actual creature genuinely aspired to become. They 
embodied what was fairest in human life and loved men 
who resembled them, so that it was delightful and ennobling 
to see their images everywhere, and to keep their names 
and story perpetually in mind. They did not by their 
influence alienate man from his appropriate happiness, 
but they perfected it by their presence. Peopling all 
places, changing their forms as all living things must 
according to place and circumstance, they showed how all 
kinds of being, if perfect in their kind, might be perfectly 
good. They asked for a reverence consistent with reason, 
and exercised prerogatives that left man free. Their 
worship was a perpetual lesson in humanity, moderation, 
and beauty. Something pre-rational and monstrous often 


peeped out behind their serenity, as it does beneath the 
human soul, and there was certainly no lack of wildness 
and mystic horror in their apparitions. The ideal must 
needs betray those elemental forces on which, after all, 
it rests ; but reason exists to exorcize their madness and 
win them over to a steady expression of themselves and 
of the good. 

Prayer, in fine, though it accomplishes nothing material, 
constitutes something spiritual. It will not bring rain, 
but until rain comes it may cultivate hope and resigna 
tion and may prepare the heart for any issue, opening 
up a vista in which human prosperity will appear in its 
conditioned existence and conditional value. A candle 
wasting itself before an image will prevent no misfortune, 
but it may bear witness to some silent hope or relieve 
some sorrow by expressing it ; it may soften a little the 
bitter sense of impotence which would consume a mind 
aware of physical dependence but not of spiritual dominion. 
Worship, supplication, reliance on the gods, express both 
these things in an appropriate parable. Physical impotence 
is expressed by man s appeal for help ; moral dominion 
by belief in God s omnipotence. This belief may after 
wards seem to be contraolicted by events. It would be so 
in truth if God s omnipotence stood for a material magical 
control of events by the values they were to generate. 
But the believer knows in his heart, in spite of the confused 
explanations he may give of his feelings, that a material 
efficacy is not the test of his faith. His faith will survive 
any outward disappointment. In fact, it will grow by 
that discipline and not become truly religious until it 
ceases to be a foolish expectation of improbable things and 
rises on stepping-stones of its material disappointments 
into a spiritual peace. What would sacrifice be but a risky 
investment if it did not redeem us from the love of those 
things which it asks us to surrender ? What would be the 
miserable fruit of an appeal to God which, after bringing 
us face to face with him, left us still immersed in what 
we could have enjoyed without him ? The real use and 
excuse for magic is this, that by enticing us, in the service 
of natural lusts, into a region above natural instrumental 
ities, it accustoms us to that rarer atmosphere, so that we 


may learn to breathe it for its own sake. By the time we 
discover the mechanical futility of religion we may have- 
begun to blush at the thought of using religion mechanic 
ally ; for what should be the end of life if friendship with 
the gods is a means only ? When thaumaturgy is dis 
credited, the childish desire to work miracles may itself 
have passed away. Before we weary of the attempt 
to hide and piece out our mortality, our concomitant 
immortality may have dawned upon us. While we are 
waiting for the command to take up our bed and walk 
we may hear a voice saying : Thy sins are forgiven thee. 


DYING is something ghastly, as being born is something 
ridiculous ; and, even if no pain were involved in quitting 
or entering this world, we might still say what Dante s 
Francesca says of it : // modo ancor m offende, " I 
shudder at the way of it." If the fear of death were 
merely the fear of dying, it would be better dealt with by 
medicine than by argument. There is, or there might be, 
an art of dying well, of dying painlessly, willingly, and in 
season, as in those noble partings which Attic gravestones 
depict, especially if we were allowed to choose our own 

But the radical fear of death, I venture to think, is 
something quite different. It is the love of life. This 
love is not something rational, or founded on experience 
of life. It is something antecedent and spontaneous. 
It teaches every animal to seek its food and its mate, and 
to protect its offspring ; as also to resist or fly from all 
injury to the body, and most of all from threatened death. 
It is the original impulse by which good is discriminated 
from evil, and hope from fear. 

Nothing could be more futile, therefore, than to marshal 
arguments against that fear of death which is merely 
another name for the energy of life, or the tendency to 
self-preservation. W 7 hat is most dreaded is not the agony 


of dying, nor yet the strange impossibility that when we 
do not exist we should suffer for not existing. What is 
dreaded is the defeat of a present will directed upon life 
and its various undertakings. Such a present will cannot 
be argued away, but it may be weakened by contradictions 
arising within it, by the irony of experience, or by ascetic 
discipline. To introduce ascetic discipline, to bring out 
the irony of experience, to expose the self-contradictions 
of the will, would be the true means of mitigating the love 
of life ; and if the love of life were extinguished, the fear 
of death, like smoke rising from that fire, would have 
vanished also. 

The force, for instance, of the great passage against the 
fear of death, at the end of the third book of Lucretius, 
comes chiefly from the picture it draws of the madness of 
life. His philosophy deprecates covetousness, ambition, 
love, and religion ; it takes a long step towards the surrender 
of life, by surrendering all in life that is ardent, on the 
ground that it is painful in the end and ignominious. 
To escape from it all is a great deliverance. And since 
genius must be ardent about something, Lucretius pours 
out his enthusiasm on Epicurus, who brought this deliver 
ance and was the saviour of mankind. Yet this was only 
a beginning of salvation, and the same principles carried 
further would have delivered us from the Epicurean life 
and what it retained that was Greek and naturalistic : 
science, friendship, and the healthy pleasures of the body. 
Had it renounced these things also, Epicureanism would 
have become altogether ascetic, a thorough system of 
mortification, or the pursuit of death. To those who 
sincerely pursue death, death is no evil, but the highest 
good. No need in that case of elaborate arguments to 
prove that death should not be feared, because it is nothing ; 
for in spite of being nothing or rather because it is nothing 
death can be loved by a fatigued and disillusioned spirit, 
just as in spite of being nothing or rather because it is 
nothing it must be hated and feared by every vigorous 



AMONG the blind, the retina having lost its function, the 
rest of the skin is said to recover its primordial sensitiveness 
to distance and light, so that the sightless have a clearer 
premonition of objects about them than seeing people 
could have in the dark. So when reason and the ordinary 
processes of sense are in abeyance a certain universal 
sensibility seems to return to the soul ; influences at other 
times not appreciable make then a sensible impression, 
and automatic reactions may be run through in response 
to a stimulus normally quite insufficient. Now the com 
plexity of nature is prodigious ; everything that happens 
leaves, like buried cities, almost indelible traces which an 
eye, by chance attentive and duly prepared, can manage 
to read, recovering for a moment the image of an extinct 
life. Symbols, illegible to reason, can thus sometimes read 
themselves out in trance and madness. Faint vestiges 
may be found in matter of forms which it once wore, or 
which, like a perfume, impregnated and got lodgment 
within it. Slight echoes may suddenly reconstitute them 
selves in the mind s silence ; and a half-stunned conscious 
ness may catch brief glimpses of long-lost and irrelevant 
things. Real ghosts are such reverberations of the past, 
exceeding ordinary imagination and discernment both in 
vividness and in fidelity ; they may not be explicable 
without appealing to material influences subtler than those 
ordinarily recognized, as they are obviously not discoverable 
without some derangement and hypertrophy of the senses. 
That such subtler influences should exist is entirely 
consonant with reason and experience ; but only a hanker 
ing tenderness for superstition, a failure to appreciate 
the function both of religion and of science, can lead to 
reverence for such oracular gibberish as these influences 
provoke. The world is weary of experimenting with magic. 
In utter seriousness and with immense solemnity whole 
races have given themselves up to exploiting these shabby 
mysteries ; and while a new survey of the facts, in the 


light of natural science and psychology, is certainly not 
superfluous, it can be expected to lead to nothing but a 
more detailed and conscientious description of natural 
processes. The thought of employing such investigations 
to save at the last moment religious doctrines founded 
on moral ideas is a pathetic blunder ; the obscene super 
natural has nothing to do with rational religion. If it 
were discovered that wretched echoes of a past life could be 
actually heard by putting one s ear long enough to a tomb, 
and if (per impossibile) those echoes could be legitimately 
attributed to another mind, and to the very mind, indeed, 
whose former body was interred there, a melancholy 
chapter would indeed be added to man s earthly fortunes, 
since it would appear that even after death he retained, 
under certain conditions, a fatal attachment to his dead 
body and to the other material instruments of his earthly 
life. Obviously such a discovery would teach us more 
about dying than about immortality ; the truths disclosed, 
since they would be disclosed by experiment and observa 
tion, would be psycho-physical truths, implying nothing 
about what a truly disembodied life might be, if one were 
attainable ; for a disembodied life could by no possibility 
betray itself in spectres, rumblings, and spasms. Actual 
thunders from Sinai and an actual discovery of two stone 
tables would have been utterly irrelevant to the moral 
authority of the ten commandments or to the existence 
of a truly supreme being. No less irrelevant to a supra- 
mundane immortality is the length of time during which 
human spirits may be condemned to operate on earth 
after their bodies are quiet. In other words, spectral 
survivals would at most enlarge our conception of the 
soul s physical basis, spreading out the area of its mani 
festations ; they could not possibly, seeing the survivals 
are physical, reveal the disembodied existence of the soul. 


MANY a man dies too soon and some are born in the wrong 
age or station. Could these persons drink at the fountain 


of youth at least once more they might do themselves 
fuller justice and cut a better figure at last in the universe. 
Most people think they have stuff in them for greater 
things than time suffers them to perform. To imagine a 
second career is a pleasing antidote for ill-fortune ; the 
poor soul wants another chance. But how should a future 
life be constituted if it is to satisfy this demand, and how 
long need it last ? It would evidently have to go on in an 
environment closely analogous to earth ; I could not, for 
instance, write in another world the epics which the 
necessity of earning my living may have stifled here, did 
that other world contain no time, no heroic struggles, or no 
metrical language. Nor is it clear that my epics, to be 
perfect, would need to be quite endless. If what is foiled 
in me is really poetic genius and not simply a tendency 
toward perpetual motion, it would not help me if in heaven, 
in lieu of my dream t-of epics, I were allowed to beget 
several robust children. In a word, if hereafter I am to 
be the same man improved I must find myself in the same 
world corrected. Were I transformed into a cherub or 
transported into a timeless ecstasy, it is hard to see in what 
sense I should continue to exist. Those results might be 
interesting in themselves and might enrich the universe ; 
they would not prolong my life nor retrieve my disasters. 
The universe doubtless contains all sorts of experiences, 
better and worse than the human ; but it is idle to attribute 
to a particular man a life divorced from his circumstances 
and from his body. 

For this reason a future life is after all best represented 
by those frankly material ideals which most Christians 
being Platonists are wont to despise. It would be 
genuine happiness for a Jew to rise again in the flesh and 
live for ever in Ezekiel s New Jerusalem, with its ceremonial 
glories and civic order. It would be truly agreeable for any 
man to sit in well-watered gardens with Mohammed, clad 
in green silks, drinking delicious sherbets, and transfixed by 
the gazelle-like glance of some young girl, all innocence 
and fire. Amid such scenes a man might remain himself 
and might fulfil hopes that he had actually cherished on 
earth. He might also find his friends again, which in 
somewhat generous minds is perhaps the thought that 


chiefly sustains interest in a posthumous existence. But 
to recognize his friends a man must find them in their 
bodies, with their familiar habits, voices, and interests ; 
for it is surely an insult to affection to say that he could 
find them in an eternal formula expressing their idiosyn 
crasy. When, however, it is clearly seen that another life, 
to supplement this one, must closely resemble it, does not 
the magic of immortality altogether vanish ? Is such a 
reduplication of earthly society at all credible ? And the 
prospect of awakening again among houses and trees, 
among children and dotards, among wars and rumours of 
wars, still fettered to one personality and one accidental 
past, still uncertain of the future, is not this prospect 
wearisome and deeply repulsive ? Having passed through 
these things once and bequeathed them to posterity, is it not 
time for each soul to rest ? 

Dogmas about such a posthumous experience find some 
shadowy support in various illusions and superstitions that 
surround death, but they are developed into articulate 
prophecies chiefly by certain moral demands. One of 
these requires rewards and punishments more emphatic 
and sure than those which conduct meets with in this 
world. Another requires merely a more favourable and 
complete opportunity for the soul s development. Con 
siderations like these are pertinent to moral philosophy. 
It touches the notion of duty whether an exact hedonistic 
retribution is to be demanded for what is termed merit 
and guilt : so that without such supernatural remuneration 
virtue, perhaps, would be discredited and deprived of a 
motive. It likewise touches the ideality and nobleness 
of life whether human aims can be realized satisfactorily 
only in the agent s singular person, so that the fruits of 
effort would be forthwith missed if the labourer himself 
should disappear. 

To establish justice in the world and furnish an adequate 
incentive to virtue was once thought the chief business 
of a future life. The Hebraic religions somewhat over 
reached themselves on these points : for the grotesque 
alternative between hell and heaven in the end only 
aggravated the injustice it was meant to remedy. Life 
is unjust in that it subordinates individuals to a general 


mechanical law, and the deeper and longer hold fate has 
on the soul, the greater that injustice. A perpetual life 
would be a perpetual subjection to arbitrary power, while 
a last judgment would be but a last fatality. That hell 
may have frightened a few villains into omitting a crime 
is perhaps credible ; but the embarrassed silence which 
the churches, in a more sensitive age, prefer to maintain 
on that wholesome doctrine once, as they taught, the 
only rational basis for virtue shows how their teaching 
has to follow the independent progress of morals. Never 
theless, persons are not wanting, apparently free from 
ecclesiastical constraint, who still maintain that the value 
of life depends on its indefinite prolongation. By an 
artifice of reflection they substitute vanity for reason, 
and selfish for ingenuous instincts in man. Being apparently 
interested in nothing but their own careers, they forget that 
a man may remember how little he counts in the world 
and suffer that rational knowledge to inspire his purposes. 
Intense morality has always envisaged earthly goods and 
evils, and even when a future life has been accepted 
vaguely, it has never given direction to human will or 
aims, which at best it could only proclaim more emphatic 
ally. It may indeed be said that no man of any depth 
of soul has made his prolonged existence the touchstone 
of his enthusiasms. Such an instinct is carnal, and if 
immortality is to add a higher inspiration to life it must 
not be an immortality of selfishness. What a despicable 
creature must a man be, and how sunk below the level 
of the most barbaric virtue, if he cannot bear to live and 
to die for his children, for his art, or for his country ! 


ANCIENT culture was rhetorical. It abounded in ideas that 
are verbally plausible and pass muster in a public speech, 
but that, if we stop to criticize them, prove at once to be 
inexcusably false. One of these rhetorical fallacies is the 
maxim that men cannot live for what they will not witness. 



What does it matter to you, we may say in debate, what 
happened before you were born, or what may go on after 
you are buried ? And the orator who puts such a challenge 
may carry the audience with him, and raise a laugh at the 
expense of human sincerity. Yet the very men who 
applaud are proud of their ancestors, care for the future of 
their children, and are very much interested in securing, 
legally, the execution of their last will and testament. 
What may go on after their death concerns them deeply, 
not because they expect to watch the event from hell or 
heaven, but because they are interested ideally in what 
that event shall be, although they are never to witness it. 
Lucretius, for instance, in his sympathy with nature, in 
his zeal for human enlightenment, in his tears for Iphigenia, 
long since dead, is not moved by the hope of observing, 
or the memory of having observed, what excites his emotion. 
He forgets himself. He sees the whole universe spread 
out in its true movement and proportions ; he sees mankind 
freed from the incubus of superstition, and from the havoc 
of passion. The vision kindles his enthusiasm, exalts 
his imagination, and swells his verse into unmistakable 
earnestness. Tf we follow Lucretius, therefore, in narrow 
ing the sum of our personal fortunes to one brief and partial 
glimpse of earth, we must not suppose that we need narrow 
at all the sphere of our moral interests. On the contrary, 
just in proportion as we despise superstitious terrors and 
sentimental hopes, and as our imagination becomes self- 
forgetful, we shall strengthen the direct and primitive 
concern which we feel in the world and in what may go on 
there, before us, after us, or beyond our ken. If, like 
Lucretius and every philosophical poet, we range over all 
time and all existence, we shall forget our own persons, as 
he did, and even wish them to be forgotten if only the 
things we care for may subsist or arise. He who truly 
loves God, says Spinoza, cannot wish that God should 
love him in return. One who lives the life of the universe 
cannot be much concerned for his own. After all, the life 
of the universe is but the locus and extension of ours. 
The atoms that have once served to produce life remain fit 
to reproduce it ; and although the body they might animate 
later would be a new one, and would have a somewhat 


different career, it would not, according to Lucretius, be of 
a totally new species ; perhaps not more unlike ourselves 
than we are unlike one another, or than each of us is unlike 
himself at the various stages of his life. 

The soul of nature, in the elements of it, is then, accord 
ing to Lucretius, actually immortal ; only the human 
individuality, the chance composition of those elements, 
is transitory ; so that, if a man could care for what happens 
to other men, for what befell him when young or what 
may overtake him when old, he might perfectly well care, 
on the same imaginative principle, for what may go on 
in the world for ever. The finitude and injustice of his 
personal life would be broken down ; the illusion of 
selfishness would be dissipated ; and he might say to 
himself, I have imagination, and nothing that is real is 
alien to me. 

Love, whether sexual, parental, or fraternal, is essentially 
sacrificial, and prompts a man to give his life for his friends. 
In thus losing his life gladly he in a sense finds it anew, 
since it has now become a part of his function and ideal 
to yield his place to others and to live afterwards only in 
them. While the primitive and animal side of him may 
continue to cling to existence at all hazards and to find 
the thought of extinction intolerable, his reason and finer 
imagination will build a new ideal on reality better under 
stood, and be content that the future he looks to should 
be enjoyed by others. When we consider such a natural 
transformation and discipline of the will, when we catch 
even a slight glimpse of nature s resources and mysteries, 
how thin and verbal those belated hopes must seem which 
would elude death and abolish sacrifice ! Such puerile 
dreams not only miss the whole pathos of human life, but 
ignore those specifically mortal virtues which might console 
us for not being so radiantly divine as we may at first 
have thought ourselves. Nature, in denying us perennial 
youth, has at least invited us to become unselfish and 



PLATONIC love is the application to passion of that pursuit 
of something permanent in a world of change, of something 
absolute in a world of relativity, which was the essence 
of the Platonic philosophy. If we may give rein to the 
imagination in a matter which without imagination could 
not be understood at all, we may fancy Plato trying to 
comprehend the power which beauty exerted over his 
senses by applying to the objects of love that profound 
metaphysical distinction which he had learned to make 
in his dialectical studies the distinction between the 
appearance to sense and the reality envisaged by the 
intellect, between the phenomenon and the ideal. The 
whole natural world had come to seem to him like a world 
of dreams. In dreams images succeed one another without 
other meaning than that which they derive from our 
strange power of recognition a power which enables us 
somehow, among the most incongruous transformations 
and surroundings, to find again the objects of our waking 
life, and to name those absurd and unmannerly visions by 
the name of father or mother or by any other familiar 
name. As these resemblances to real things make up all 
the truth of our dream, and these recognitions all its 
meaning, so Plato thought that all the truth and meaning 
of earthly things was the reference they contained to a 
heavenly original. This heavenly original we remember 
and recognize even among the distortions, disappearances, 
and multiplications of its earthly copies. 

This thought is easily applicable to the affections ; 
indeed, it is not impossible that it was the natural transcend 
ence of any deep glance into beauty, and the lessons in 
disillusion and idealism given by that natural metaphysician 
we call love, that first gave Plato the key to his general 
system. There is, at any rate, no sphere in which the 
supersensible is approached with so warm a feeling of 
its reality, in which the phenomenon is so transparent 
and so indifferent a symbol of something perfect and 


divine beyond. In love and beauty, if anywhere, even the 
common man thinks he has visitations from a better world, 
approaches to a lost happiness ; a happiness never tasted 
by us in this world, and yet so natural, so expected, that 
we look for it at every turn of a corner, in every new face ; 
we look for it with so much confidence, with so much depth 
of expectation, that we never quite overcome our disappoint 
ment that it is not found. 

And it is not found, no, never, in spite of what we 
may think when we are first in love. Plato knew this well 
from his experience. He had had successful loves, or 
what the world calls such, but he could not fancy that 
these successes were more than provocations, more than 
hints of what the true good is. To have mistaken them 
for real happiness would have been to continue to dream. 
It would have shown as little comprehension of the heart s 
experience as the idiot shows of the experience of the senses 
when he is unable to put together impressions of his eyes 
and hands and to say, " Here is a table ; here is a stool." 
It is by a parallel use of the understanding that we put 
together the impressions of the heart and the imagination 
and are able to say, " Here is absolute beauty : here is 
God." The impressions themselves have no permanence, 
no intelligible essence. As Plato said, they are never 
anything fixed but are always either becoming or ceasing 
to be what we think them. There must be, he tells us, 
an eternal and clearly definable object of which the visible 
appearances to us are the manifold semblance ; now by 
one trait now by another the phantom before us lights up 
that vague and haunting idea, and makes us utter its name 
with a momentary sense of certitude and attainment. 

Just so the individual beauties that charm our attention 
and enchain the soul have only a transitive existence ; 
they are momentary visions, irrecoverable moods. Their 
object is unstable ; we never can say what it is, it changes 
so quickly before our eyes. What is it that a mother 
loves in her child ? Perhaps the babe not yet born, or 
the child that grew long ago by her suffering and un 
recognized care ; perhaps the man to be or the youth that 
has been. What does a man love in a woman ? The 
girl that is yet, perhaps, to be his, or the wife that once 


chose to give him her whole existence. Where, among 
all these glimpses, is the true object of love ? It flies 
before us, it tempts us on, only to escape and turn to mock 
us from a new quarter. And yet nothing can concern us 
more or be more real to us than this mysterious good, 
since the pursuit of it gives our lives whatever they have 
of true earnestness and meaning, and the approach to it 
whatever they have of joy. 

So far is this ideal, Plato would say, from being an 
illusion, that it is the source of the world, the power that 
keeps us in existence. But for it, we should be dead. 
A profound indifference, an initial torpor, would have kept 
us from ever opening our eyes, and we should have no 
world of business or pleasure, politics or science, to think 
about at all. We, and the whole universe, exist only by 
the passionate attempt to return to our perfection, by the 
radical need of losing ourselves again in God. That 
ineffable good is our natural possession ; all we honour 
in this life is but the partial recovery of our birthright ; 
every delightful thing is like a rift in the clouds through 
which we catch a glimpse of our native heaven. If that 
heaven seems so far away and the idea of it so dim and 
unreal, it is because we are so far from self-knowledge, so 
much immersed in what is alien and destructive to the soul. 


THE more we reflect, the more we live in memory and idea, 
the more convinced and penetrated we shall be by the 
experience of death ; yet, as it is memory that enables 
us to feel that we are dying and to know that everything 
actual is in flux, so it is memory that opens to us an ideal 
immortality, unacceptable and meaningless to the old 
Adam, but genuine in its own way and undeniably true. 
Memory does not reprieve or postpone the changes which 
it registers, nor does it itself possess a permanent duration ; 
it is, if possible, less stable and more mobile than primary 
sensation. It is, in point of existence, only an internal 


and complex kind of sensibility. But in intent and by its 
significance it plunges to the depths of time ; it looks still 
on the departed and bears witness to the truth that, 
though absent from this part of experience, and incapable 
of returning to life, they nevertheless existed once in their 
own right, were as living and actual as experience is to 
day, and still help to make up, in company with all past, 
present, and future mortals, the filling and value of the 

As the pathos and heroism of life consists in accepting 
as an opportunity the fate that makes our own death, 
partial or total, serviceable to others, so the glory of life 
consists in accepting the knowledge of natural death as an 
opportunity to live in the spirit. The sacrifice, the self- 
surrender, remains real ; for, though the compensation 
is real, too, and at moments, perhaps, apparently over 
whelming, it is always incomplete and leaves beneath 
an incurable sorrow. Yet reflection is a vital function ; 
memory and imagination have to the full the rhythm 
and force of life. These faculties, in envisaging the past 
or the ideal, envisage the eternal, and the man in whose 
mind they predominate is to that extent detached in his 
affections from the world of flux, from himself, and from 
his personal destiny. This detachment will not make him 
infinitely long-lived, nor absolutely happy, but it may 
render him intelligent and just, and may open to him all 
intellectual pleasures and all human sympathies. 

Animal sensation is related to eternity only by the truth 
that it has taken place. The fact, fleeting as it is, is 
registered in ideal history, and no inventory of the world s 
riches, no true confession of its crimes, would ever be 
complete that ignored that incident. This indefeasible 
character in experience makes a first sort of ideal immor 
tality, one on which those rational philosophers like to 
dwell who have not speculation enough to feel quite certain 
of any other. It was a consolation to the Epicurean to 
remember that, however brief and uncertain might be his 
tenure of delight, the past was safe and the present sure. 
" He lives happy," says Horace, " and master over himself, 
who can say daily, I have lived. To-morrow let Jove 
cover the sky with black clouds or flood it with sunshine ; 


he shall not thereby render vain what lies behind, he shall 
not delete and make never to have existed what once the 
hour has brought in its flight." Such self-concentration 
and hugging of the facts has no power to improve them ; 
it gives to pleasure and pain an impartial eternity, and 
rather tends to intrench in sensuous and selfish satisfactions 
a mind that has lost faith in reason and that deliberately 
ignores the difference in scope and dignity which exists 
among various pursuits. Yet the reflection is staunch 
and in its way heroic ; it meets a vague and feeble aspira 
tion, that looks to the infinite, with a just rebuke ; it 
points to real satisfactions, experienced successes, and 
asks us to be content with the fulfilment of our own wills. 
If you have seen the world, if you have played your game 
and won it, what more would you ask for ? If you have 
tasted the sweets of existence, you should be satisfied ; 
if the experience has been bitter, you should be glad that 
it comes to an end. 

Of course, as we have seen, there is a primary demand 
in man which death and mutation contradict flatly, so 
that no summons to cease can ever be obeyed with com 
plete willingness. Even the suicide trembles and the 
ascetic feels the stings of the flesh. It is the part of 
philosophy, however, to pass over those natural repug 
nances and overlay them with as much countervailing 
rationality as can find lodgment in a particular mind. 
The Epicurean, having abandoned politics and religion 
and being afraid of any far-reaching ambition, applied 
philosophy honestly enough to what remained. Simple 
and healthy pleasures are the reward of simple and healthy 
pursuits ; to chafe against them because they are limited 
is to import a foreign and disruptive element into the case ; 
a healthy hunger has its limit, and its satisfaction reaches 
a natural term. Philosophy, far from alienating us from 
those values, should teach us to see their perfection and 
to maintain them in our ideal. In other words, the happy 
filling of a single hour is so much gained for the universe 
at large, and to find joy and sufficiency in the flying 
moment is perhaps the only means open to us for increasing 
the glory of eternity. 

Moving events, while remaining enshrined in this fashion 


in their permanent setting, may contain other and less 
external relations to the immutable. They may represent 
it. If the pleasures of sense are not cancelled when they 
cease, but continue to satisfy reason in that they once 
satisfied natural desires, much more will the pleasures of 
reflection retain their worth, when we consider that what 
they aspired to and reached was no momentary physical 
equilibrium but a permanent truth. As Archimedes, measur 
ing the hypothenuse, was lost to events, being absorbed 
in a fact of much greater transcendence, so art and science 
interrupt the sense for change by engrossing attention in 
its issues and its laws. Old age often turns pious to look 
away from ruins to some world where youth endures and 
where what ought to have been is not overtaken by decay 
before it has quite come to maturity. Lost in such abstract 
contemplations, the mind is weaned from mortal concerns. 
It forgets for a few moments a world in which it has so 
little more to do and so much, perhaps, still to suffer. 
As a sensation of pure light would not distinguish itself 
from the light it revealed, so a contemplation of things 
not implicating time in their structure becomes, so far as 
its own deliverance goes, a timeless existence. Uncon 
sciousness of temporal conditions and of the very flight 
of time makes the thinker sink for a moment into identity 
with timeless objects. And so immortality, in a second 
ideal sense, touches the mind. 

The will, too, is an avenue to the eternal. What would 
you have ? What is the goal of your endeavour ? It 
must be some success, the establishment of some order, 
the expression of some experience. These points once 
reached, we are not left merely with the satisfaction of 
abstract success. Being natural goals, these ideals are 
related to natural functions. Their attainment does not 
exhaust but merely liberates, in this one instance, the 
function concerned, and so marks the perpetual point of 
reference common to that function in all its fluctuations. 
Every attainment of perfection in an art as for instance 
in government makes a return to perfection easier for 
posterity, since there remains an enlightening example, 
together with faculties predisposed by discipline to recover 
their ancient virtue. The better a man evokes and realizes 


the ideal the more he leads the life that all others, in 
proportions to their worth, will seek to live after him, and 
the more he helps them to live in that nobler fashion. 
His presence in the society of immortals thus becomes, 
so to speak, more pervasive. He not only vanquishes time 
by his own rationality, living now in the eternal, but he 
continually lives again in all rational beings. 

Since the ideal has this perpetual pertinence to mortal 
struggles, he who lives in the ideal and leaves it expressed 
in society or in art enjoys a double immortality. The 
eternal has absorbed him while he lived, and when he is 
dead his influence brings others to the same absorption, 
making them, through that ideal identity with the best 
in him, reincarnations and perennial seats of all in him 
which he could rationally hope to rescue from destruction. 
He can say, without any subterfuge or desire to delude 
himself, that he shall not wholly die ; for he will have a 
better notion than the vulgar of what constitutes his being. 
By becoming the spectator and confessor of his own death 
and of universal mutation, he will have identified himself 
with what is spiritual in all spirits and masterful in all 
apprehension ; and so conceiving himself, he may truly 
feel and know that he is eternal. 

Nothing is eternal in its duration. The tide of evolution 
carries everything before it, thoughts no less than bodies, 
and persons no less than nations. Yet all things are 
eternal in their status, as truth is. The place which an 
event fills in history is its inalienable place ; the character 
that an act or a feeling possesses in passing is its inalienable 
character. Now, the human mind is not merely animal, 
not merely absorbed in the felt transition from one state 
of life to another. It is partly synthetic, intellectual, 
contemplative, able to look before and after and to see 
fleeting things at once in their mutual relations, or, as 
Spinoza expressed it, under the form of eternity. To see 
things under the form of eternity is to see them in their 
historic and moral truth, not as they seemed as they 
passed, but as they remain when they are over. When 
a man s life is over, it remains true that he has lived ; it 
remains true that he has been one sort of man, and not 
another. In the infinite mosaic of history that bit has its 


unlading colour and its perpetual function and effect. 
A man who understands himself under the form of eternity 
knows the quality that eternally belongs to him, and knows 
that he cannot wholly die, even if he would ; for when the 
movement of his life is over, the truth of his life remains. 
The fact of him is a part for ever of the infinite context 
of facts. This sort of immortality belongs passively to 
everything ; but to the intellectual part of man it belongs 
actively also, because, in so far as it knows the eternity of 
truth, and is absorbed in it, the mind lives in that eternity. 
In caring only for the eternal, it has ceased to care for that 
part of itself which can die. But this sort of immortality 
is ideal only. He who, while he lives, lives in the eternal, 
does not live longer for that reason. Duration has merely 
dropped from his view ; he is not aware of or anxious 
about it ; and death, without losing its reality, has lost 
its sting. The sublimation of his interest rescues him, so 
far as it goes, from the mortality which he accepts and 
surveys. The animals are mortal without knowing it, 
and doubtless presume, in their folly, that they will live for 
ever. Man alone knows that he must die ; but that very 
knowledge raises him, in a sense, above mortality, by 
making him a sharer in the vision of eternal truth. He 
becomes the spectator of his own tragedy ; he sympathizes 
so much with the fury of the storm that he has not ears 
left for the shipwrecked sailor, though that sailor were 
his own soul. The truth is cruel, but it can be loved, 
and it makes free those who have loved it. 





IT is no longer the fashion among philosophers to decry 
art. Either its influence seems to them too slight to excite 
alarm, or their systems are too lax to subject anything to 
censure which has the least glamour or ideality about it. 
Tired, perhaps, of daily resolving the conflict between 
science and religion, they prefer to assume silently a har 
mony between morals and art. Moral harmonies, however, 
are not given ; they have to be made. The curse of super 
stition is that it justifies and protracts their absence by 
proclaiming their invisible presence. Of course a rational 
religion could not conflict with a rational science ; and 
similarly an art that was wholly admirable would neces 
sarily play into the hand of progress. But as the real 
difficulty in the former case lies in saying what religion and 
what science would be truly rational, so here the problem 
is how far extant art is a benefit to mankind, and how far, 
perhaps, a vice or a burden. 

That art is prima facie and in itself a good cannot be 
doubted. It is a spontaneous activity, and that settles 
the question. Yet the function of ethics is precisely to 
revise prima facie judgments of this kind and to fix the 
ultimate resultant of all given interests, in so far as they 
can be combined. In the actual disarray of human life 
and desire, wisdom consists in knowing what goods to 
sacrifice and what simples to pour into the supreme mixture. 
The extent to which aesthetic values are allowed to colour 
the resultant or highest good is a point of great theoretic 
importance, not only for art but for general philosophy. 
If art is excluded altogether or given only a trivial role, 
perhaps as a necessary relaxation, we feel at once that a 



philosophy so judging human arts is ascetic or post-rational. 
It pretends to guide life from above and from without ; it 
has discredited human nature and mortal interests, and 
has thereby undermined itself, since it is at best but a 
partial expression of that humanity which it strives to 
transcend. If, on the contrary, art is prized as something 
supreme and irresponsible, if the poetic and mystic glow 
which it may bring seems its own complete justification, 
then philosophy is evidently still pre-rational or, rather, 
non-existent ; for the beasts that listened to Orpheus 
belong to this school. 

To be bewitched is not to be saved, though all the 
magicians and aesthetes in the world should pronounce 
it to be so. Intoxication is a sad business, at least for a 
philosopher ; for you must either drown yourself altogether, 
or else when sober again you will feel somewhat fooled by 
yesterday s joys and somewhat lost in to-day s vacancy. 
The man who would emancipate art from discipline and 
reason is trying to elude rationality, not merely in art, 
but in all existence. He is vexed at conditions of excel 
lence that make him conscious of his own incompetence 
and failure. Rather than consider his function, he pro 
claims his self-sufficiency. A way foolishness has of reveng 
ing itself is to excommunicate the world. 

If a practice can point to its innocence, if it can absolve 
itself from concern for a world with which it does not 
interfere, it has justified itself to those who love it, though 
it may not yet have recommended itself to those who do 
not. Now art, more than any other considerable pursuit, 
more even than speculation, is abstract and inconsequential. 
Born of suspended attention, it ends in itself. It en 
courages sensuous abstraction, and nothing concerns it 
less than to influence the world. Nor does it really do so 
in a notable degree. Social changes do not reach artistic 
expression until after their momentum is acquired and 
their other collateral effects are fully predetermined. 
Scarcely is a school of art established, giving expression to 
prevailing sentiment, when this sentiment changes and 
makes that style seem empty and ridiculous. The expres 
sion has little or no power to maintain the movement it 
registers, as a waterfall has little or no power to bring more 


water down. Currents may indeed cut deep channels; but 
they cannot feed their own springs at least not until the 
whole revolution of nature is taken into account. 

In the individual, also, art registers passions without 
stimulating them ; on the contrary, in stopping to depict 
them it steals away their life ; and whatever interest and 
delight it transfers to their expression it subtracts from 
their vital energy. This appears unmistakably in erotic 
and in religious art. Though the artist s avowed purpose 
here be to arouse a practical impulse, he fails in so far as 
he is an artist in truth ; for he then will seek to move the 
given passions only through beauty, but beauty is a rival 
object of passion in itself. Lascivious and pious works, 
when beauty has touched them, cease to give out what is 
wilful and disquieting in their subject and become alto 
gether intellectual and sublime. There is a high breath- 
lessness about beauty that cancels lust and superstition. 
The artist, in taking the latter for his theme, renders them 
innocent and interesting, because he looks at them from 
above, composes their attitudes and surroundings harmoni 
ously, and makes them food for the mind. Accordingly it 
is only in a refined and secondary stage that active passions 
like to amuse themselves with their aesthetic expression. 
Unmitigated lustiness and raw fanaticism will snarl at 
pictures. Representations begin to interest when crude 
passions recede, and feel the need of conciliating liberal 
interests and adding some intellectual charm to their dumb 
attractions. Thus art, while by its subject it may betray 
the preoccupations among which it springs up, embodies a 
new and quite innocent interest. 

This interest is more than innocent ; it is liberal. Art 
has met, on the whole, with more success than science or 
morals. Beauty gives men the best hint of ultimate good 
which their experience as yet can offer ; and the most 
lauded geniuses have been poets, as if people felt that those 
seers, rather than men of action or thought, had lived 
ideally and known what was worth knowing. That such 
should be the case, if the fact be admitted, would indeed 
prove the rudimentary state of human civilization. The 
truly comprehensive life should be the statesman s, for 
whom perception and theory might be expressed and 



rewarded in action. The ideal dignity of art is therefore 
merely symbolic and vicarious. As some people study 
character in novels, and travel by reading tales of adven 
ture, because real life is not yet so interesting to them as 
fiction, or because they find it cheaper to make their 
experiments in their dreams, so art in general is a rehearsal 
of rational living, and recasts in idea a world which we have 
no present means of recasting in reality. Yet this rehearsal 
reveals the glories of a possible performance better than 
do the miserable experiments until now executed on the 

When we consider the present distracted state of govern 
ment and religion, there is much relief in turning from them 
to almost any art, where what is good is altogether and 
finally good, and what is bad is at least not treacherous. 
When we consider further the senseless rivalries, the 
vanities, the ignominy that reign in the " practical " world, 
how doubly blessed it becomes to find a sphere where 
limitation is an excellence, where diversity is a beauty, and 
where every man s ambition is consistent with every other 
man s and even favourable to it ! It is indeed so in art ; 
for we must not import into its blameless labours the 
bickerings and jealousies of criticism. Critics quarrel with 
other critics, and that is a part of philosophy. With an 
artist no sane man quarrels, any more than with the colour 
of a child s eyes. As nature, being full of seeds, rises into 
all sorts of crystallizations, each having its own ideal and 
potential life, each a nucleus of order and a habitation for 
the absolute self, so art, though in a medium poorer than 
pregnant matter, and incapable of intrinsic life, generates 
a semblance of all conceivable beings. What nature does 
with existence, art does with appearance ; and while the 
achievement leaves us, unhappily, much where we were 
before in all our efficacious relations, it entirely renews our 
vision and breeds a fresh world in fancy, where all form has 
the same inner justification that all life has in the real 
world. As no insect is without its rights and every cripple 
has his dream of happiness, so no artistic fact, no child of 
imagination, is without its small birthright of beauty. In 
this freer element, competition does not exist and every 
thing is Olympian. Hungry generations do not tread 


down the ideal but only its spokesmen or embodiments, 
that have cast in their lot with other material things. 
Art supplies constantly to contemplation what nature 
seldom affords in concrete experience the union of life 
and peace. 


How great a portion of human energies should be spent 
on art and its appreciation is a question to be answered 
variously by various persons and nations. There is no 
ideal a priori ; an ideal can but express, if it is genuine, the 
balance of impulses and potentialities in a given soul. A 
mind at once sensuous and mobile will find its appropriate 
perfection in studying and reconstructing objects of sense. 
Its rationality will appear chiefly on the plane of percep 
tion, to render the circle of visions which makes up its life 
as delightful as possible. For such a man art will be the 
most satisfying, the most significant activity, and to load 
him with material riches or speculative truths or profound 
social loyalties will be to impede and depress him. The 
irrational is what does not justify itself in the end ; and 
the born artist, repelled by the soberer and bitterer passions 
of the world, may justly call them irrational. They would 
not justify themselves in his experience ; they make 
grievous demands and yield nothing in the end which is 
intelligible to him. His picture of them, if he be a drama 
tist, will hardly fail to be satirical ; fate, frailty, illusion 
will be his constant themes. If his temperament could 
find political expression, he would minimise the machinery 
of life and deprecate any calculated prudence. He would 
trust the heart, enjoy nature, and not frown too angrily 
on inclination. Such a Bohemia he would regard as an 
ideal world in which humanity might flourish congenially. 
A puritan moralist, before condemning such an infantile 
paradise, should remember that a commonwealth of 
butterflies actually exists. It is not any inherent wrong- 
ness in such an ideal that makes it unacceptable, but only 
the fact that human butterflies are not wholly mercurial 


and that even imperfect geniuses are but an extreme type 
in a society whose guiding ideal is based upon a broader 
humanity than the artist represents. Men of science or 
business will accuse the poet of folly, on the very grounds 
on which he accuses them of the same. Each will seem to 
the other to be obeying a barren obsession. The statesman 
or philosopher who should aspire to adjust their quarrel 
could do so only by force of intelligent sympathy with 
both sides, and in view of the common conditions in which 
they find themselves. What ought to be done is that 
which, when done, will most nearly justify itself to all 
concerned. Practical problems of morals are judicial and 
political problems. Justice can never be pronounced with 
out, hearing the parties and weighing the interests at stake. 
A circumstance that complicates such a calculation is 
this : aesthetic and other interests are not separable units, 
to be compared externally ; they are rather strands inter 
woven in the texture of everything. ^Esthetic sensibility 
colours every thought, qualifies every allegiance, and 
modifies every product of human labour. Consequently 
the love of beauty has to justify itself not merely intrinsi 
cally, or as a constituent part of life more or less to be 
insisted upon ; it has to justify itself also as an influence. 
A hostile influence is the most odious of things. The enemy 
himself, the alien creature, lies in his own camp, and in a 
speculative moment we may put ourselves in his place and 
learn to think of him charitably ; but his spirit in our own 
souls is like a private tempter, a treasonable voice weaken 
ing our allegiance to our own duty. A zealot might allow 
his neighbours to be damned in peace, did not a certain 
heretical odour emitted by them infect the sanctuary and 
disturb his own dogmatic calm. In the same way prac 
tical people might leave the artist alone in his oasis, and 
even grant him a pittance on which to live, as they feed 
the animals in a zoological garden, did he not intrude into 
their inmost conclave and vitiate the abstract cogency of 
their designs. It is not so much art in its own field that 
men of science look askance upon, as the love of glitter and 
rhetoric and false finality trespassing upon scientific ground ; 
while men of affairs may well deprecate a rooted habit of 
sensuous absorption and of sudden transit to imaginary 


worlds, a habit which must work havoc in their own sphere. 
In other words, there is an element of poetry inherent 
in thought, in conduct, in affection ; and we must ask 
ourselves how far this ingredient is an obstacle to their 
proper development. 

To criticize art on moral grounds is to pay it a high 
compliment by assuming that it aims to be adequate, and 
is addressed to a comprehensive mind. The only way in 
which art could disallow such criticism would be to protest 
its irresponsible infancy, and admit that it was a more or 
less amiable blatancy in individuals, and not art at all. 
Young animals often gambol in a delightful fashion, and 
men also may, though hardly when they intend to do so. 
Sportive self-expression can be prized because human 
nature contains a certain elasticity and margin for experi 
ment, in which waste activity is inevitable and may be 
precious : for this license may lead, amid a thousand 
failures, to some real discovery and advance. Art, like 
life, should be free, since both are experimental. But it 
is one thing to make room for genius and to respect the 
sudden madness of poets through which, possibly, some 
god may speak, and it is quite another not to judge the 
result by rational standards. The bowels of the earth are 
full of all sorts of rumblings ; which of the oracles drawn 
thence is true can be judged only by the light of day. If 
an artist s inspiration has been happy, it has been so because 
his work can sweeten or ennoble the mind and because its 
total effect will be beneficent. Art being a part of life, the 
criticism of art is a part of morals. 


MEN are habitually insensible to beauty. Tomes of sesthetic 
criticism hang on a few moments of real delight and intui 
tion. It is in rare and scattered instants that beauty 
smiles even on her adorers, who are reduced for habitual 
comfort to remembering her past favours. An aesthetic 
glow may pervade experience, but that circumstance is 


seldom remarked ; it figures only as an influence working 
subterraneously on thoughts and judgments which in 
themselves take a cognitive or practical direction. Only 
when the aesthetic ingredient becomes predominant do we 
exclaim, How beautiful ! Ordinarily the pleasures which 
formal perception gives remain an undistinguished part of 
our comfort or curiosity. 

Taste is formed in those moments when aesthetic emotion 
is massive and distinct ; preferences then grown conscious, 
judgments then put into words, will reverberate through 
calmer hours ; they will constitute prejudices, habits of 
apperception, secret standards for all other beauties. A 
period of life in which such intuitions have been frequent 
may amass tastes and ideals sufficient for the rest of our 
days. Youth in these matters governs maturity, and 
while men may develop their early impressions more 
systematically and find confirmations of them in various 
quarters, they will seldom look at the world afresh or use 
new categories in deciphering it. Half our standards come 
from our first masters, and the other half from our first 
loves. Never being so deeply stirred again, we remain 
persuaded that no objects save those we then discovered 
can have a true sublimity. These high-water marks of 
aesthetic life may easily be reached under tutelage. It may 
be some eloquent appreciations read in a book, or some 
preference expressed by a gifted friend, that may have 
revealed unsuspected beauties in art or nature ; and then, 
since our own perception was vicarious and obviously 
inferior in volume to that which our mentor possessed, 
we shall take his judgments for our criterion, since they 
were the source and exemplar of all our own. Thus the 
volume and intensity of some appreciations, especially 
when nothing of the kind has preceded, makes them 
authoritative over our subsequent judgments. On those 
warm moments hang all our cold systematic opinions ; 
and while the latter fill our days and shape our careers it 
is only the former that are crucial and alive. 



THE value of art lies in making people happy, first in 
practising the art and then in possessing its product. This 
observation might seem needless, and ought to be so ; but 
if we compare it with what is commonly said on these 
subjects, we must confess that it may often be denied and 
more often, perhaps, may not be understood. Happiness 
is something men ought to pursue, although they seldom 
do so ; they are drawn away from it at first by foolish 
impulses and afterwards by perverse laws. To secure 
happiness conduct would have to remain spontaneous 
while it learned not to be criminal ; but the fanatical 
attachment of men, now to a fierce liberty, now to a false 
regimen, keeps them barbarous and wretched. A rational 
pursuit of happiness which is one thing with progress or 
with the life of reason would embody that natural piety 
which leaves to the episodes of life their inherent values, 
mourning death, celebrating love, sanctifying civic tradi 
tions, enjoying and correcting nature s ways. To dis 
criminate happiness is therefore the very soul of art, which 
expresses experience without distorting it, as those political 
or metaphysical tyrannies distort it which sanctify un- 
happiness. A free mind, like a creative imagination, 
rejoices at the harmonies it can find or make between man 
and nature ; and, where it finds none, it solves the conflict 
so far as it may and then notes and endures it with 
a shudder. 


THERE would be a kind of superstitious haste in the notion 
that what is convenient and economical is necessarily and 
by miracle beautiful. The uses and habits of one place 
and society require works which are or may easily become 
intrinsically beautiful ; the uses and habits of another 
make these beautiful works impossible. The beauty has 


a material and formal basis ; no fitness of design will 
make a building of ten equal storeys as beautiful as a 
pavilion or a finely-proportioned tower ; no utility will 
make a steamboat as beautiful as a sailing vessel. But the 
forms once established, with their various intrinsic char 
acters, the fitness we know to exist in them will lend them 
some added charm, or their unfitness will disquiet us, and 
haunt us like a conscientious qualm. The other interests 
of our lives here mingle with the purely aesthetic, to enrich 
or to embitter it. 

If Sybaris is so sad a name to the memory and who is 
without some Sybaris of his own ? if the image of it is so 
tormenting and in the end so disgusting, this is not because 
we no longer think its marbles bright, its fountains cool, 
its athletes strong, or its roses fragrant ; but because, 
mingled with all these supreme beauties, there is the 
ubiquitous shade of Nemesis, the sense of a vacant will and 
a suicidal inhumanity. The intolerableness of this moral 
condition poisons the beauty which continues to be felt. 
If this beauty did not exist, and was not still desired, the 
tragedy would disappear and Jehovah would be deprived 
of the worth of his victim. The sternness of moral forces 
lies precisely in this, that the sacrifices morality imposes 
upon us are real, that the things it renders impossible are 
still precious. 

We are accustomed to think of prudence as estranging 
us only from low and ignoble things ; we forget that utility 
and the need of system in our lives are a bar also to the free 
flights of the spirit. The highest instincts tend to dis 
organization as much as the lowest, since order or benefit 
is what practical morality everywhere insists upon, while 
sanctity and genius are as rebellious as vice. The constant 
demands of the heart and the belly can allow man only an 
incidental indulgence in the pleasures of the eye and the 
understanding. For this reason, utility keeps close watch 
over beauty, lest in her wilfulness and riot she should offend 
against our practical needs and ultimate happiness. And 
when the conscience is keen, that which emits a sapor 
haereticus becomes so initially horrible, that no beauty can 
ever be discovered in it ; the senses and imagination are 
in that case inhibited by the conscience. 


For this reason, the doctrine that beauty is essentially 
nothing but the expression of moral or practical good 
appeals to persons of predominant moral sensitiveness, not 
only because they wish it were the truth, but because it 
largely describes the experience of their own minds, some 
what warped in this particular. It will further be observed 
that the moralists are much more able to condemn than to 
appreciate the effects of the arts. Their taste is delicate 
without being keen, for the principle on which they judge 
is one which really operates to control and extend aesthetic 
effects ; it is a source of expression and of certain nuances 
of satisfaction ; but it is foreign to the stronger and more 
primitive aesthetic values to which the same persons are 
comparatively blind. 

The extent to which aesthetic goods should be 
sacrificed is, of course, a moral question ; for the function 
of practical reason is to compare, combine, and harmonize 
all our interests, with a view to attaining the greatest 
satisfactions of which our nature is capable. We must 
expect, therefore, that virtue should place the same re 
straint upon all our passions not from superstitious 
aversion to any one need, but from an equal concern for 
them all. The consideration to be given to our aesthetic 
pleasures will depend upon their greater or less influence 
upon our happiness ; and as this influence varies in different 
ages and countries, and with different individuals, it will 
be right to let aesthetic demands count for more or for less 
in the organization of life. 

We may indeed, according to our personal sympathies, 
prefer one type of creature to another. We may love the 
martial, or the angelic, or the political temperament. We 
may delight to find in others that balance of suscepti 
bilities and enthusiasms which we feel in our own breast. 
But no moral precept can require one species or individual 
to change its nature in order to resemble another, since such 
a requirement can have no power or authority over those 
on whom we would impose it. All that morality can 
require is the inward harmony of each life : and if we 
still abhor the thought of a possible being who should be 
happy without love, or knowledge, or beauty, the aversion 
we ieel is not moral but instinctive, not rational but human. 


What revolts us is not the want of excellence in that other 
creature, but his want of affinity to ourselves. Could we 
survey the whole universe, we might indeed assign to each 
species a moral dignity proportionate to its general benefi 
cence and inward wealth ; but such an absolute standard, 
if it exists, is incommunicable to us ; and we are reduced 
to judging of the excellence of every nature by its relation 
to the human. 

If things of moment are before us, we cannot stop to 
play with symbols and figures of speech. Too much 
eloquence in a diplomatic document, or in a familiar letter, 
or in a prayer, is an offence not only against practical sense, 
but also against taste. The occasion has tuned us to a 
certain key of sentiment, and deprived us of the power to 
respond to other stimuli. We cannot attend to them with 
pleasure, and therefore they lose the beauty they might 
elsewhere have had. They are offensive, not in themselves 
for nothing is intrinsically ugly but by virtue of our 
present demand for something different. A prison as gay 
as a bazaar, a church as dumb as a prison, offend by their 
failure to support by their aesthetic quality the moral 
emotion with which we approach them. The arts must 
study their occasions ; they must stand modestly aside 
until they can slip in fitly into the interstices of life. This 
is the consequence of the superficial stratum on which they 
flourish ; their roots, as we have seen, are not deep in the 
world, and they appear only as unstable, superadded 
activities, employments of our freedom, after the work of 
life is done and the terror of it is allayed. They must, 
therefore, fit their forms, like parasites, to the stouter 
growths to which they cling. 

Herein lies the greatest difficulty and nicety of art. It 
must not only create things abstractly beautiful, but it 
must conciliate all the competitors these may have to the 
attention of the world, and must know how to insinuate 
their charms among the objects of our passion. But this 
subserviency and enforced humility of beauty is not 
without its virtue and reward. If the aesthetic habit lie 
under the necessity of respecting and observing our passions, 
it possesses the privilege of soothing our griefs. There is 
no situation so terrible that it may not be relieved by the 


momentary pause of the mind to contemplate it aestheti 

Grief itself becomes in this way not wholly pain ; a 
sweetness is added to it by our reflection. The saddest 
scenes may lose their bitterness in their beauty. This 
ministration makes, as it were, the piety of the Muses, who 
succour their mother, Life, and repay her for their nurture 
by the comfort of their continual presence. The aesthetic 
world is limited in its scope ; it must submit to the control 
of the organizing reason, and not trespass upon more useful 
and holy ground. The garden must not encroach upon 
the corn-fields ; but the eye of the gardener may transform 
the corn-fields themselves by dint of loving observation 
into a garden of a soberer kind. By finding grandeur in 
our disasters, and merriment in our mishaps, the aesthetic 
sense thus mollifies both, and consoles us for the frequent 
impossibility of a serious and perfect beauty. 


NOTHING but the good of life enters into the texture of 
the beautiful. What charms us in the comic, what stirs 
us in the sublime and touches us in the pathetic, is a glimpse 
of some good ; imperfection has value only as an incipient 
perfection. Could the labours and sufferings of life be 
reduced, and a better harmony between man and nature 
be established, nothing would be lost to the arts ; for the 
pure and ultimate value of the comic is discovery ; of the 
pathetic, love ; of the sublime, exaltation ; and these would 
still subsist. Indeed, they would all be increased ; and it 
has ever been, accordingly, in the happiest and most pros 
perous moments of humanity, when the mind and the world 
were knit into a brief embrace, that natural beauty has been 
best perceived and art has won its triumphs. But it 
sometimes happens, in moments less propitious, that the 
soul is subdued to what it works in, and loses its power of 
idealization and hope. By a pathetic and superstitious 


self -depreciation, we then punish ourselves for the imper 
fection of nature. Awed by the magnitude of a reality 
that we can no longer conceive as free from evil, we try to 
assert that its evil also is a good ; and we poison the very 
essence of the good to make its extension universal. We 
confuse the causal connexion of those things in nature 
which we call good or evil by an adventitious denomina 
tion, with the logical opposition between good and evil 
themselves ; because one generation makes room for 
another, we say death is necessary to life ; and because 
the causes of sorrow and joy are so mingled in this world, 
we cannot conceive how, in a better world, they might 
be disentangled. 

This incapacity of the imagination to reconstruct the 
conditions of life and build the frame of things nearer to 
the heart s desire is fatal to a steady loyalty to what is 
noble and fine. We surrender ourselves to a kind of mis 
cellaneous appreciation, without standard or goal ; and 
calling every vexatious apparition by the name of beauty, 
we become incapable of discriminating its excellence or 
feeling its value. We need to clarify our ideals, and enliven 
our vision of perfection. No atheism is so terrible as the 
absence of an ultimate ideal, nor could any failure of power 
be more contrary to human nature than the failure of moral 
imagination, or more incompatible with healthy life. For 
we have faculties, and habits, and impulses. These are 
the basis of our demands. And these demands, although 
variable, constitute an ever-present intrinsic standard of 
value by which we feel and judge. The ideal is immanent 
in them ; for the ideal means that fulfilment in which 
our faculties would find their freest employment and their 
most congenial world. Perfection would be nothing but 
life under those conditions. Accordingly our consciousness 
of the ideal becomes distinct in proportion as we advance 
in virtue and in proportion to the vigour and definiteness 
with which our faculties work. When the vital harmony 
is complete, when the act is pure, faith in perfection passes 
into vision. That man is unhappy indeed, who in all his 
life has had no glimpse of perfection, who in the ecstasy of 
love, or in the delight of contemplation, has never been able 
to say : It is attained. Such moments of inspiration are 


the source of the arts, which have no higher function than 
to renew them. 

A work of art is indeed a monument to such a moment, 
the memorial to such a vision ; and its charm varies with 
its power of recalling us from the distractions of common 
life to the joy of a more natural and perfect activity. 


MERE sensation or mere emotion is an indignity to a mature 
human being. When we eat, we demand a pleasant vista, 
flowers, or conversation, and failing these we take refuge 
in a newspaper. The monks, knowing that men should 
not feed silently like stalled oxen, appointed some one to 
read aloud in the refectory ; and the Fathers, obeying the 
same civilized instinct, had contrived in their theology 
intelligible points of attachment for religious emotion. A 
refined mind finds as little happiness in love without 
friendship as in sensuality without love ; it may succumb 
to both, but it accepts neither. What is true of mere __ 
sensibility is no less true of mere fancy. Any absolute 
work of art which serves no further purpose than to stimu 
late an emotion has about it a certain luxurious and 
visionary taint. We leave it with a blank mind, and a / 
pang bubbles up from the very fountain of pleasures. Art, / 
so long as it needs to be a dream, will never cease to provej 
a disappointment. Its facile cruelty, its narcotic abstrac- 
tion, can never sweeten the evils we return to at home ; it 
can liberate half the mind only by leaving the other half 
in abeyance. 


THERE is no reason why cost, or the circumstances which 
are its basis, should not, like other practical values. 
heighten the tone of consciousness, and add to the pleasure 


with which we view an object. In fact, such is our daily 
experience ; for great as is the sensuous beauty of gems, 
their rarity and price add an expression of distinction to 
them, which they would never have if they were cheap. 

The knowledge of cost, when expressed in terms of 
money, is incapable of contributing to aesthetic effect, but 
the reason is not so much that the suggested value is not 
aesthetic, as that no real value is suggested at all. If we 
reinterpret our price, however, and translate it back into 
the facts which constitute it, into the materials employed, 
their original place and quality, and the labour and art 
which transformed them into the present thing, then we 
add to the aesthetic value of the object by the expression 
which we find in it, not of its price in money, but of its 
human cost. We have now the consciousness of the 
human values which it represents, and these values, 
sympathetically present to the fancy, increase our present 
interest and admiration. We feel a natural wonder in 
what is rare and affects us with unusual sensations. What 
comes from a far country carries our thoughts there, and 
gains by the wealth and picturesqueness of its associations. 
And that on which human labour has been spent, especially 
if it was a labour of love, and is apparent in the product, 
has one of the deepest possible claims to admiration. So 
that the standard of cost, the most vulgar of all standards, 
is such only when it remains empty and abstract. Let 
the thoughts wander back and consider the elements 
of value, and our appreciation, from being verbal and 
commercial, becomes poetic and real. Our sense of what 
lies behind any object, unlovely though that background 
may be, gives interest and poignancy to that which is 
present ; our attention and wonder are engaged, and a new 
meaning and importance is added to such intrinsic beauty 
as the object may possess. 


To most people, I fancy, the stars are beautiful ; but if 
you asked why, they would be at a loss to reply, until they 


remembered what they had heard about astronomy, and 
the great size and distance and possible habitation of those 
orbs. The vague and illusive ideas thus aroused fall in 
so well with the dumb emotion we were already feeling, 
that we attribute this emotion to those ideas, and persuade 
ourselves that the power of the starry heavens lies in the 
suggestion of astronomical facts. 

The idea of the insignificance of our earth and of the 
incomprehensible multiplicity of worlds is indeed immensely 
impressive ; it may even be intensely disagreeable. There 
is something baffling about infinity ; in its presence the 
sense of finite humility can never wholly banish the 
rebellious suspicion that we are being deluded. Our 
mathematical imagination is put on the rack by an 
attempted conception that has all the anguish of a night 
mare and probably, could we but awake, all its laughable 
absurdity. But the obsession of this dream is an in 
tellectual puzzle, not an aesthetic delight. Before the days 
of Kepler the heavens declared the glory of the Lord ; 
and we needed no calculation of stellar distances, no 
fancies about a plurality of worlds, no image of infinite 
spaces, to make the stars sublime. 

Had we been taught to believe that the stars governed 
our fortunes, and were we reminded of fate whenever we 
looked at them, we should similarly tend to imagine that 
this b elief was the source of their sublimity ; and if the 
superstition were dispelled, we should think the interest 
gone from the apparition. But experience would soon 
undeceive us, and prove that the sensuous character of 
the object was sublime in itself. For that reason the 
parable of the natal stars governing our lives is such a 
natural one to express our subjection to circumstances, and 
can be transformed by the stupidity of disciples into a 
literal tenet. In the same way, the kinship of the emotion 
produced by the stars with the emotion proper to certain 
religious moments makes the stars seem a religious object. 
They become, like impressive music, a stimulus to worship. 
But fortunately there are experiences which remain 
untouched by theory, and which maintain the mutual 
intelligence of men through the estrangements wrought 
by intellectual and religious systems. When the super- 


structures crumble, the common foundation of human 
sentience and imagination is exposed beneath. Did not 
the infinite, by this initial assault upon our senses, awe us 
and overwhelm us, as solemn music might, the idea of it 
would be abstract and mental like that of the infinitesimal, 
and nothing but an amusing curiosity. The knowledge 
that the universe is a multitude of minute spheres circling, 
like specks of dust, in a dark and boundless void, might 
leave us cold and indifferent, if not bored and depressed, 
were it not that we identify this hypothetical scheme 
with the visible splendour, the poignant intensity, and the 
baffling number of the stars. So far is the object from 
giving value to the impression, that it is here, as it must 
always ultimately be, the impression that gives value to the 
object. For all worth leads us back to actual feeling 
somewhere, or else evaporates into nothing into a word 
and a superstition. 

Now, the starry heavens are very happily designed to 
intensify the sensations on which their fascination must 
rest. The continuum of space is broken into points, 
numerous enough to give the utmost idea of multiplicity, 
and yet so distinct and vivid that it is impossible not 
to remain aware of their individuality. The sensuous, 
contrast of the dark background blacker the clearer 
the night and the more stars we can see with the palpitat 
ing fire of the stars themselves, could not be exceeded by 
any possible device. 

Fancy a map of the heavens and every star plotted 
upon it, even those invisible to the naked eye : why 
would this object, as full of scientific suggestion surely as 
the reality, leave us so comparatively cold ? The sense 
of multiplicity is naturally in no way diminished by the 
representation ; but the poignancy of the sensation, the 
life of the light, are gone ; and with the dulled impression 
the keenness of the emotion disappears. Or imagine the 
stars, undiminished in number, without losing any of their 
astronomical significance and divine immutability, mar 
shalled in geometrical patterns ; say in a Latin cross, 
with the words In hoc signo vinces in a scroll around them. 
The beauty of the illumination would be perhaps increased, 
and its import, practical, religious, and cosmic, would 


surely be a little plainer ; but where would be the sublimity 
of the spectacle ? Irretrievably lost : and lost because 
the form of the object would no longer tantalize us with 
its sheer multiplicity, and with the consequent overpower 
ing sense of suspense and awe. Accordingly things which 
have enough multiplicity, as the lights of a city seen across 
water, have an effect similar to that of the stars, if less 
intense ; whereas a star, if alone, because the multiplicity 
is lacking, makes a wholly different impression. The 
single star is tender, beautiful, and mild ; we can compare 
it to the humblest and sweetest of things : 

A violet by a mossy stone 
Half hidden from the eye, 
Fair as a star when only one 
Is shining in the sky. 

It is, not only in fact but in nature, an attendant on 
the moon, associated with the moon, if we may be so 
prosaic here, not only by contiguity but also by similarity. 

Fairer than Phoebe s sapphire-regioned star 
Or vesper, amorous glow-worm of the sky. 

The same poet can say elsewhere of a passionate lover : 

He arose 

Ethereal, flashed, and like a throbbing star. 
Amid the sapphire heaven s deep repose. 

How opposite is all this from the cold glitter, the cruel 
and mysterious sublimity of the stars when they are many ! 
With these we have no tender associations ; they make 
us think rather of Kant who could hit on nothing else to 
compare with his categorical imperative, perhaps because 
he found in both the same baffling incomprehensibility and 
the same fierce actuality. Such ultimate feelings are 
sensations of physical tension. 


THERE is in sounds such an exquisite and continuous 
gradation in pitch, and such a measurable relation in 



length, that an object almost as complex and describable 
as a visible one can be built out of them. Not that a 
musical composition exists in any mystical way, as a 
portion of the music of the spheres, which no one is hearing ; 
but that, for a critical philosophy, visible objects are 
also nothing but possibilities of sensation. To the inner 
man, a real world is merely the shadow of that assurance 
of eventual experience which accompanies sanity. This 
ideal objectivity can accrue to any mental figment that 
has enough cohesion, substance, and individuality to be 
describable and recognizable, and these qualities belong 
no less to audible than to spatial ideas. 

There is, accordingly, some justification in Schopen 
hauer s speculative assertion that music repeats the entire 
world of sense, and is a parallel method of expression of 
the underlying substance or will. The world of sound is 
certainly capable of infinite variety and, were our sense 
developed, of infinite extensions, and it has as much as the 
world of matter the power to interest us and to stir our 
emotions. It was therefore potentially as full of mean 
ing. But it has proved the less applicable and constant 
apparition ; and, therefore, music, which builds with its 
materials, while the purest and most impressive of the 
arts, is the least human and instructive of them. 

Music is essentially useless, as life is : but both lend 
utility to their conditions. That the way in which idle 
sounds run together should matter so much is a mystery 
of the same order as the spirit s concern to keep a particular 
body alive, or to propagate its life. Such an interest is, 
from an absolute point of view, wholly gratuitous ; and 
so long as the natural basis and expressive function of 
spirit are not perceived, this mystery is baffling. In 
truth the order of values inverts that of causes ; and 
experience, in which all values lie, is an ideal resultant, 
itself ineffectual, of the potencies it can conceive. Delight 
in music is liberal ; it makes useful the organs and processes 
that subserve it. We happen to breathe, and on that 
account are interested in breathing ; and it is no greater 
marvel that, happening to be subject to intricate musical 
sensations, we should be in earnest about these too. The 
human ear discriminates sounds with ease ; what it hears 

MUSIC 131 

is so diversified that its elements can be massed without 
being confused, or can form a sequence having a character 
of its own, to be appreciated and remembered. The eye 
too has a field in which clear distinctions and relations 
appear, and for that reason is an organ favourable to 
intelligence ; but what gives music its superior emotional 
power is its rhythmic advance. Time is a medium which 
appeals more than space to emotion. Since life is itself 
a flux, and thought an operation, there is naturally some 
thing immediate and breathless about whatever flows and 
expands. The visible world offers itself to our regard with 
a certain lazy indifference. " Peruse me," it seems to say, 
" if you will. I am here ; and even if you pass me by now 
and later find it to your advantage to resurvey me, I may 
still be here." The world of sound speaks a more urgent 
language. It insinuates itself into our very substance, 
and it is not so much the music that moves us as we that 
move with it. Its rhythms seize upon our bodily life, 
to accelerate or to deepen it ; and we must either become 
inattentive altogether or remain enslaved. 

This imperious function in music has lent it functions 
which are far from aesthetic. Song can be used to keep in 
unison many men s efforts, as when sailors sing as they 
heave ; it can make persuasive and obvious sentiments 
which, if not set to music, might seem absurd, as often in 
love songs and in psalmody. It may indeed serve to 
prepare the mind for any impression whatever, and render 
the same more intense when it comes. Music was long 
used before it was loved or people took pains to refine it. 
It would have seemed as strange in primitive times to turn 
utterance into a fine art as now to make aesthetic paces 
out of mourning or child-birth. Primitive music is indeed 
a wail and a parturition ; magical and suggestive as it may 
be, for long ages it never bethinks itself to be beautiful. 
It is content to furnish a contagious melancholy employ 
ment to souls without a language and with little interest 
in the real world. Barbaric musicians, singing and playing 
together more or less at random, are too much carried 
away by their performance to conceive its effect; they 
cry far too loud and too unceasingly to listen. A contagious 
tradition carries them aiong and controls them, in a way, 


as they improvise ; the assembly is hardly an audience ; 
all are performers, and the crowd is only a stimulus that 
keeps every one dancing and howling in emulation. This 
unconsidered flow of early art remains present, more or less, 
to the end. Instead of vague custom we have schools, 
and instead of swaying multitudes academic example ; 
but many a discord and mannerism survive simply because 
the musician is so suggestible, or so lost in the tumult of 
production, as never to reconsider what he does, or to 
perceive its wastefulness. 

Nevertheless an inherent value exists in all emitted 
sounds, although barbaric practice and theory are slow 
to recognize it. Each tone has its quality, like jewels of 
different water ; every cadence has its vital expression, 
no less inherent in it than that which comes in a posture 
or in a thought. Everything audible thrills merely by 
sounding, and though this perceptual thrill be at first 
overpowered by the effort and excitement of action, yet it 
eventually fights its way to the top. Participation in 
music may become perfunctory or dull for the great 
majority, as when hymns are sung in church ; a mere 
suggestion of action will doubtless continue to colour the 
impression received, for a tendency to act is involved in 
perception ; but this suggestion will be only an over-tone 
or echo behind an auditory feeling. Some performers 
will be singled out from the crowd ; those whom the 
public likes to hear will be asked to continue alone ; and 
soon a certain suasion will be exerted over them by the 
approval or censure of others, so that consciously or 
unconsciously they will train themselves to please. 

Popular music needs to be simple, although elaborate 
music may be beautiful to the few. When elaborate 
music is the fashion among people to whom all music is 
a voluptuous mystery, we may be sure that what they 
love is voluptuousness or fashion, and not music itself. 
Beneath its hypnotic power, music, for the musician, has 
an intellectual essence. Out of simple chords and melodies, 
which at first catch only the ear, he weaves elaborate 
compositions that by their form appeal also to the mind. 
This side of music resembles a richer versification ; it may 
be compared also to mathematics or to arabesques. A 

MUSIC 133 

moving arabesque that has a vital dimension, an audible 
mathematics, adding sense to form, and a versification 
that, since it has no subject-matter, cannot do violence to 
it by its complex artifices these are types of pure living, 
altogether joyful and delightful things. They combine 
life with order, precision with spontaneity ; the flux in 
them has become rhythmical and its freedom has passed 
into a rational choice, since it has come in sight of the 
eternal form it would embody. The musician, like an 
architect or goldsmith working in sound, but freer than 
they from material trammels, can expand for ever his 
yielding labyrinth ; every step opens up new vistas, every 
decision how unlike those made in real life ! multiplies 
opportunities, and widens the horizon before him, without 
preventing him from going back at will to begin afresh at 
any point, to trace the other possible paths leading thence 
through various magic landscapes. Pure music is pure 
art. Its extreme abstraction is balanced by its entire 
spontaneity, and, while it has no external significance, it 
bears no internal curse. It is something to which a few 
spirits may well surrender themselves, sure that in a liberal 
commonwealth they will be thanked for their ideal labour, 
the fruits of which many may enjoy. Such excursions 
into ultra-mundane regions, where order is free, refine 
the mind and make it familiar with perfection. By 
analogy an ideal form comes to be conceived and desiderated 
in other regions, where it is not produced so readily, and 
the music heard, as the Pythagoreans hoped, makes the soul 
also musical. 

It must be confessed, however, that a world of sounds 
and rhythms, all about nothing, is a by-world and a mere 
distraction for a political animal. Its substance is air, 
though the spell of it may have moral affinities. Neverthe 
less this ethereal art may be enticed to earth and married 
with what is mortal. Music interests humanity most 
when it is wedded to human events. The alliance comes 
about through the emotions which music and life arouse 
in common. For sound, in sweeping through the body 
and making felt there its kinetic and potential stress, 
provokes no less interest than does any other physical 
event or premonition. Music can produce emotion as 


directly as can fighting or love. Nor is music the only 
idle cerebral commotion that enlists attention and presents 
issues no less momentous for being quite imaginary ; 
dreams do the same, and seldom can the real crises of life 
so absorb the soul, or prompt it to such extreme efforts, 
as can delirium in sickness, or delusion in what passes for 

There is perhaps no emotion incident to human life 
that music cannot render in its abstract medium by 
suggesting the pang of it ; though of course music cannot 
describe the complex situation which lends earthly passions 
their specific colour. The passions, as music renders them, 
are always general. But music has its own substitute for dis 
tinct representation. It makes feeling specific, nay, more 
delicate and precise than. association with things could make 
it, by uniting it with musical form. We may say that besides 
suggesting abstractly all ordinary passions, music creates a 
new realm of form far more subtly impassioned than is vulgar 
experience. Human life is confined to a dramatic repertory 
which has already become somewhat classical and worn, 
but music has no end of new situations, shaded in infinite 
ways ; it moves in all sorts of bodies to all sorts of adven 
tures. In life the ordinary routine of destiny beats so 
emphatic a measure that it does not allow free play to 
feeling ; we cannot linger on anything long enough to 
exhaust its meaning, nor can we wander far from the 
beaten path to catch new impressions. But in music 
there are no mortal obligations, no imperious needs calling 
us back to reality. Here nothing beautiful is extravagant, 
nothing delightful unworthy. Musical refinement finds 
no limit but its own instinct, so that a thousand shades 
of what, in our blundering words, we must call sadness 
or mirth, find in music their distinct expression. Each 
phrase, each composition, articulates perfectly what no 
human situation could embody. These fine emotions 
are really new ; they are altogether musical and unex 
ampled in practical life ; they are native to the passing 
cadence, absolute postures into which it throws the soul. 

Thus music is a means of giving form to our inner 
feelings without attaching them to events or objects 
in the world. Music is articulate, but articulate in a 

MUSIC 135 

language which avoids, or at least veils, the articulation 
of the world we live in ; it is, therefore, the chosen art 
of a mind to whom the world is still foreign. If this seems 
in one way an incapacity, it is also a privilege. Not to 
be at home in the world, to prize it chiefly for echoes 
which it may have in the soul, to have a soul that can give 
forth echoes, or that can generate internal dramas of 
sound out of its own resources may this not be a more 
enviable endowment than that of a mind all surface, 
a sensitive plate only able to photograph this not too 
beautiful earth ? Music serves to keep alive the con 
viction, which a confused experience might obscure, that 
perfection is essentially possible ; it reminds us that there 
are worlds far removed from the actual which are yet living 
and very near to the heart. 

Emotion is initially about nothing and much of it 
remains about nothing to the end. What rescues a part 
of our passions from this pathological plight and lends 
them some other function than merely to be, is the ideal 
relevance which they sometimes acquire. All experience 
is pathological if we consider its ground, but a part of 
it is also rational if we consider its import. The art of 
distributing interest among the occasions and vistas of 
life so as to lend them a constant worth, and at the same 
time to give feeling an intelligible object, is at bottom 
the sole business of education ; but the undertaking is 
long, and much feeling remains unemployed and un 
justified. This objectless emotion chokes the heart with 
its dull importunity ; now it impedes right action, now 
it feeds and fattens illusion. Much of it radiates from 
primary functions which, though their operation is half 
known, have only base or pitiful associations in human 
life ; so that they trouble us with deep and subtle cravings, 
the unclaimed Hinterland of life. When music, either 
by verbal indications or by sensuous affinities, or by both 
at once, succeeds in tapping this fund of suppressed feeling, 
it accordingly supplies a great need. It makes the dumb 
speak, and plucks from the animal heart potentialities 
of expression which might render it, perhaps, even more 
than human. 

By its emotional range music is appropriate to all 


intense occasions : we dance, pray, and mourn to music, 
and the more inadequate words or external acts are to 
the situation, the more grateful music is. As the only 
bond between music and life is emotion, music is out of 
place only where emotion itself is absent. If it breaks 
in upon us in the midst of study or business it becomes an 
interruption or alternative to our activity, rather than 
an expression of it ; we must either remain inattentive 
or pass altogether into the realm of sound (which may 
be unemotional enough) and become musicians for the 
nonce. Music brings its sympathetic ministry only to 
emotional moments. There is often in what moves us 
a certain ruthless persistence, together with a certain 
poverty of form ; the power felt is out of proportion to 
the interest awakened, and attention is kept, as in pain, 
at once strained and idle. At such a moment music is 
a blessed resource. Without attempting to remove a 
mood that is perhaps inevitable, it gives it a congruous 
filling. Thus the mood is justified by an illustration or 
expression which seems to offer some objective and ideal 
ground for its existence ; and the mood is at the same 
time relieved by absorption in that impersonal object. 
So entertained, the feeling settles. The passion to which 
at first we succumbed is now tamed and appropriated. 
We have digested the foreign substance in giving it a 
rational form ; its energies are merged in that strength 
by which we freely operate. 

In this way the most abstract of arts serves the dumbest 
emotions. Music is like those branches which some trees 
put forth close to the ground, far below the point where 
the other boughs separate ; almost a tree by itself, it 
has nothing but the root in common with its parent. 
Somewhat in this fashion music diverts into an abstract 
sphere a part of those forces which abound beneath the 
point at which human understanding grows articulate. 
It flourishes on saps which other branches of ideation are 
too narrow or rigid to take up. Those elementary sub 
stances the musician can spiritualize by his special methods, 
taking away their reproach and redeeming them from blind 

There is consequently in music a sort of Christian 

MUSIC 137 

piety, in that it comes not to call the just but sinners to 
repentance, and understands the spiritual possibilities 
in outcasts from the respectable world. If we look at 
things absolutely enough, and from their own point of 
view, there can be no doubt that each has its own ideal 
and does not question its own justification. Lust and 
frenzy, reverie or despair, fatal as they may be to a creature 
that has ulterior interests, are not perverse in themselves : 
each searches for its own affinities, and has a kind of inertia 
which tends to maintain it in being, and to attach or 
draw in whatever is propitious to it. Feelings are as 
blameless as so many forms of vegetation ; they can be 
poisonous only to a different life. They are all primordial 
motions, eddies which the universal flux makes for no 
reason, since its habit of falling into such attitudes is the 
ground-work and exemplar for nature and logic alike. 
That such strains should exist is an ultimate datum ; 
justification cannot be required of them, but must be 
offered to each of them in turn by all that enters its particu 
lar orbit. There is no will but might find a world to dis 
port itself in and to call good, and thereupon boast that 
it had created the order in which it found itself expressed. 
But such satisfaction has been denied to the majority ; 
the equilibrium of things has at least postponed their 
day. Yet they are not altogether extinguished. Many 
ill-suppressed possibilities endure in matter, and peep 
into being through the crevices, as it were, of the dominant 
world. Weeds they are called by the tyrant, but in them 
selves they are aware of being potential gods. Why 
should not every impulse expand in a congenial paradise ? 
Why should each, made evil now only by an adventitious 
appellation or a contrary fate, not vindicate its own ideal ? 
If there is a piety towards things deformed, because it is 
not they that are perverse, but the world that by its laws 
and arbitrary standards decides to treat them as if they 
were, how much more should there be a piety towards 
things altogether lovely, when it is only space and matter 
that are wanting for their perfect realization ? 



To turn events into ideas is the function of literature. 
Music, which in a certain sense is a mass of pure forms, 
must leave its " ideas " imbedded in their own medium 
they are musical ideas and cannot impose them on any 
foreign material, such as human affairs. Science, on the 
contrary, seeks to disclose the bleak anatomy of existence, 
stripping off as much as possible the veil of prejudice 
and words. Literature takes a middle course and tries 
to subdue music, which for its purposes would be futile 
and too abstract, into conformity with general experience, 
making music thereby significant. Literary art in the 
end rejects all unmeaning flourishes, all complications 
that have no counterpart in the things of this world or 
no use in expressing their relations ; at the same time 
it aspires to digest that reality to which it confines itself, 
making it over into ideal substance and material for the 
mind. It looks at natural things with an incorrigibly 
dramatic eye, turning them into permanent unities (which 
they never are) and almost into persons, grouping them by 
their imaginative or moral affinities and retaining in them 
chiefly what is incidental to their being, namely, the part 
they may chance to play in man s adventures. 

Such literary art demands a subject-matter other than the 
literary impulse itself. The literary man is an interpreter 
and hardly succeeds, as the musician may, without experi 
ence and mastery of human affairs. His art is half genius 
and half fidelity. He needs inspiration ; he must wait for 
automatic musical tendencies to ferment in his mind, 
proving it to be fertile in devices, comparisons, and bold 
assimilations. Yet inspiration alone will lead him astray, 
for his art is relative to something other than its own 
formal impulse ; it comes to clarify the real world, not 
to encumber it ; and it needs to render its native agility 
pertinent to the facts and to attach its volume of feeling 
to what is momentous in human life. Literature has its 
piety, its conscience ; it cannot long forget, without 


forfeiting all dignity, that it serves a burdened and per 
plexed creature, a human animal struggling to persuade 
the universal Sphinx to propose a more intelligible riddle. 
Irresponsible and trivial in its abstract impulse, man s 
simian chatter becomes noble as it becomes symbolic ; 
its representative function lends it a serious beauty, its 
utility endows it with moral worth. 


WHY do our practical men make room for religion in the 
background of their world ? Why did Plato, after banish 
ing the poets, poetize the universe in his prose ? Because 
the abstraction by which the world of science and of 
practice is drawn out of our experience, is too violent to 
satisfy even the thoughtless and vulgar ; the ideality of our 
views of nature, the conventionality of the drama we 
call the world, are too glaring not to be somehow perceived 
by ah 1 . Each must sometimes fall back upon the soul ; 
he must challenge this apparition with the thought of 
death ; he must ask himself for the mainspring and value 
of his life. He will then remember his stifled loves ; he 
will feel that only his illusions have ever given him a sense 
of reality, only his passions the hope and the vision of 
peace. He will read himself through and almost gather a 
meaning from his experience ; at least he will half believe 
that all he has been dealing with was a dream and a symbol, 
and raise his eyes toward the truth beyond. 

This plastic moment of the mind, when we become 
aware of the artificiality and inadequacy of what common 
sense conceives, is the true moment of poetic opportunity, 
an opportunity, we may hasten to confess, which is 
generally missed. The strain of attention, the concentra 
tion and focussing of thought on the unfamiliar immediacy 
of things, usually brings about nothing but confusion. 
We are dazed, we are filled with a sense of unutterable 
things, luminous yet indistinguishable, many yet one. 
Instead of rising to imagination, we sink into mysticism. 


To accomplish a mystical disintegration is not the 
function of any art ; if any art seems to accomplish it, 
the effect is only incidental, being involved, perhaps, in 
the process of constructing the proper object of that art, 
as we might cut down trees and dig them up by the roots 
to lay the foundations of a temple. For every art looks 
to the building up of something. And just because the 
image of the world built up by common sense and natural 
science is an inadequate image (a skeleton which needs 
the filling of sensation before it can live), therefore the 
moment when we realize its inadequacy is the moment when 
the higher arts find their opportunity. When the world 
is shattered to bits they can come and " build it nearer to 
the heart s desire." 

The great function of poetry is precisely this : to repair 
to the material of experience, seizing hold of the reality of 
sensation and fancy beneath the surface of conventional 
ideas, and then out of that living but indefinite material 
to build new structures, richer, finer, fitter to the primary 
tendencies of our nature, truer to the ultimate possibilities 
of the soul. Our descent into the elements of our being 
is then justified by our subsequent freer ascent toward its 
goal ; we revert to sense only to find food for reason ; we 
destroy conventions only to construct ideals. 


ARE poets at heart in search of a philosophy ? Or is 
philosophy in the end nothing but poetry ? Let us 
consider the situation. 

The reasonings and investigations of philosophy are 
arduous, and if poetry is to be linked with them, it can 
be artificially only, and with a bad grace. But the vision 
of philosophy is sublime. The order it reveals in the 
world is something beautiful, tragic, sympathetic to the 
mind, and just what every poet, on a small or on a large 
scale, is always trying to catch. 

In philosophy itself investigation and reasoning are 


only preparatory and servile parts, means to an end. 
They terminate in insight, or what in the noblest sense 
of the word may be called theory, 0ea>pi a, a steady 
contemplation of all things in their order and worth. 
Such contemplation is imaginative. No one can reach 
it who has not enlarged his mind and tamed his heart. 
A philosopher who attains it is, for the moment, a poet ; 
and a poet who turns his practised and passionate imagina 
tion on the order of all things, or on anything in the light 
of the whole, is for that moment a philosopher. 

Nevertheless, even if we grant that the philosopher, in 
his best moments, is a poet, we may suspect that the poet 
has his worst moments when he tries to be a philosopher, 
or rather, when he succeeds in being one. Philosophy is 
something reasoned and heavy ; poetry something winged, 
flashing, inspired. Take almost any longish poem, and 
the parts of it are better than the whole. A poet is able 
to put together a few words, a cadence or two, a single 
interesting image. He renders in that way some moment 
of comparatively high tension, of comparatively keen 
sentiment. But at the next moment the tension is relaxed, 
the sentiment has faded, and what succeeds is usually 
incongruous with what went before, or at least inferior. 
The thought drifts away from what it had started to be. 
It is lost in the sands of versification. As man is now 
constituted, to be brief is almost a condition of being 

Shall we say, then, and I now broach an idea by 
which I set some store, that poetry is essentially short- 
winded, that what is poetic is necessarily intermittent 
in the writings of poets, that only the fleeting moment, 
the mood, the episode, can be rapturously felt, or rap 
turously rendered, while life as a whole, history, character, 
and destiny are objects unfit for imagination to dwell on, 
and repellent to poetic art ? I cannot think so. If it be 
a fact, as it often is, that we find little things pleasing 
and great things arid and formless, and if we are better 
poets in a line than in an epic, that is simply due to lack 
of faculty on our part, lack of imagination and memory, 
and above all to lack of discipline. 

This might be shown, I think, by psychological analysis, 


if we cared to rely on something so abstract and so debatable. 
For in what does the short-winded poet himself excel 
the common unimaginative person who talks or who 
stares ? Is it that he thinks even less ? Rather, I suppose, 
in that he feels more ; in that his moment of intuition, 
though fleeting, has a vision, a scope, a symbolic some 
thing about it that renders it deep and expressive. Inten 
sity, even momentary intensity, if it can be expressed at 
all, comports fullness and suggestion compressed into that 
intense moment. Yes, everything that comes to us at 
all must come to us at some time or other. It is always 
the fleeting moment in which we live. To this fleeting 
moment the philosopher, as well as the poet, is actually 
confined. Each must enrich it with his endless vistas, 
vistas necessarily focussed, if they are to be disclosed at 
all, in the eye of the observer, here and now. What makes 
the difference between a moment of poetic insight and a 
vulgar moment is that the passions of the poetic moment 
have more perspective. Even the short-winded poet 
selects his words so that they have a magic momentum 
in them which carries us, we know not how, to mountain- 
tops of intuition. Is not the poetic quality of phrases 
and images due to their concentrating and liberating 
the confused promptings left in us by a long experience ? 
When we feel the poetic thrill, is it not that we find sweep 
in the concise and depth in the clear, as we might find all 
the lights of the sea in the water of a jewel ? And what is 
a philosophic thought but such an epitome ? 

If a short passage is poetical because it is pregnant 
with suggestion of a few things, which stretches our atten 
tion and makes us rapt and serious, how much more poetical 
ought a vision to be which was pregnant with all we care 
for ? Focus a little experience, give some scope and depth 
to your feeling, and it grows imaginative ; give it more 
scope and more depth, focus all experience within it, make 
it a philosopher s vision of the world, and it will grow 
imaginative in a superlative degree, and be supremely 
poetical. The difficulty, after having the experience to 
symbolize, lies only in having enough imagination to hold 
and suspend it in a thought ; and further to give this 
thought such verbal expression that others may be able 


to decipher it, and to be stirred by it as by a wind of 
suggestion sweeping the whole forest of their memories. 

Poetry, then, is not poetical for being short-winded 
or incidental, but, on the contrary, for being comprehensive 
and having range. If too much matter renders it heavy, 
that is the fault of the poet s weak intellect, not of the 
outstretched world. A quicker eye, a more synthetic 
imagination, might grasp a larger subject with the same 
ease. As in a supreme dramatic crisis all our life seems 
to be focussed in the present, and used in colouring our 
consciousness and shaping our decisions, so for each philo 
sophic poet the whole world of man is gathered together ; 
and he is never so much a poet as when, in a single cry, 
he summons all that has affinity to him in the universe, 
and salutes his ultimate destiny. It is the acme of life 
to understand life. The height of poetry is to speak the 
language of the gods. 

There is a kind of sensualism or sestheticism that has 
decreed in our day that theory is not poetical ; as if all 
the images and emotions that enter a cultivated mind 
were not saturated with theory. The prevalence of such a 
sensualism or sestheticism would alone suffice to explain the 
impotence of the arts. The life of theory is not less human 
or less emotional than the life of sense ; it is more typically 
human and more keenly emotional. Philosophy is a more 
intense sort of experience than common life is, just as 
pure and subtle music, heard in retirement, is something 
keener and more intense than the howling of storms or 
the rumble of cities. For this reason philosophy, when 
a poet is not mindless, enters inevitably into his poetry, 
since it has entered into his life ; or rather, the detail of 
things and the detail of ideas pass equally into his verse, 
when both alike lie in the path that has led him to his 
ideal. To object to theory in poetry would be like objecting 
to words there ; for words, too, are symbols without the 
sensuous character of the things they stand for ; and yet 
it is only by the net of new connexions which words 
throw over things, in recalling them, that poetry arises 
at all. Poetry is an attenuation, a rehandling, an echo 
of crude experience ; it is itself a theoretic vision of things 
at arm s length. 


Heard philosophies are sweet, but those unheard may 
be sweeter. They may be more unmixed and more pro 
found for being adopted unconsciously, for being lived 
rather than taught. This is not merely to say what 
might be said of every work of art and of every natural 
object, that it could be made the starting-point for a 
chain of inferences that should reveal the whole universe, 
like the flower in the crannied wall. It is to say, rather, 
that the vital straining towards an ideal, definite but 
latent, when it dominates a whole life, may express that 
ideal more fully than could the best-chosen words. 


IF poetry in its higher reaches is more philosophical than 
history, because it presents the memorable types of men 
and things apart from unmeaning circumstances, so in its 
primary substance and texture poetry is more philosophical 
than prose because it is nearer to our immediate experience. 
Poetry breaks up the trite conceptions designated by 
current words into the sensuous qualities out of which 
those conceptions were originally put together. We name 
what we conceive and believe in, not what we see ; things, 
not images ; souls, not voices and silhouettes. This 
naming, with the whole education of the senses which it 
accompanies, subserves the uses of life ; in order to thread 
our way through the labyrinth of objects which assault us, 
we must make a great selection in our sensuous experience ; 
half of what we see and hear we must pass over as in 
significant, while we piece out the other half with such an 
ideal complement as is necessary to turn it into a fixed 
and well-ordered conception of the world. This labour 
of perception and understanding, this spelling of the 
material meaning of experience, is enshrined in our worka 
day language and ideas ; ideas which are literally poetic 
in the sense that they are " made " (for every conception 
in an adult mind is a fiction), but which are at the same 


time prosaic because they are made economically, by 
abstraction, and for use. 

When the child of poetic genius, who has learned this 
intellectual and utilitarian language in the cradle, goes 
afield and gathers for himself the aspects of nature, he 
begins to encumber his mind with the many living impres 
sions which the intellect rejected, and which the language 
of the intellect can hardly convey ; he labours with his 
nameless burden of perception, and wastes himself in 
aimless impulses of emotion and reverie, until finally the 
method of some art offers a vent to his inspiration, or to 
such part of it as can survive the test of time and the 
discipline of expression. 

The poet retains by nature the innocence of the eye, 
or recovers it easily ; he disintegrates the fictions of 
common perception into their sensuous elements, gathers 
these together again into chance groups as the accidents of 
his environment or the affinities of his temperament may 
conjoin them ; and this wealth of sensation and this 
freedom of fancy, which make an extraordinary ferment in 
his ignorant heart, presently bubble over into some kind 
of utterance. 

The fullness and sensuousness of such effusions bring 
them nearer to our actual perceptions than common 
discourse could come ; yet they may easily seem remote, 
overloaded, and obscure to those accustomed to think 
entirely in symbols, and never to be interrupted in the 
algebraic rapidity of their thinking by a moment s pause 
and examination of heart, nor ever to plunge for a moment 
into that torrent of sensation and imagery over which the 
bridge of prosaic associations habitually carries us safe 
and dry to some conventional act. How slight that 
bridge commonly is, how much an affair of trestles and 
wire, we can hardly conceive until we have trained our 
selves to an extreme sharpness of introspection. But 
psychologists have discovered, what laymen generally 
will confess, that we hurry by the procession of our mental 
images as we do by the traffic of the street, intent on 
business, gladly forgetting the noise and movement of 
the scene, and looking only for the corner we would turn 
or the door we would enter. Yet in our alertest moment 


the depths of the soul are still dreaming ; the real world 
stands drawn in bare outline against a background of 
chaos and unrest. Our logical thoughts dominate experi 
ence only as the parallels and meridians make a checker 
board of the sea. They guide our voyage without con 
trolling the waves, which toss for ever in spite of our 
ability to ride over them to our chosen ends. Sanity is a 
madness put to good uses ; waking life is a dream controlled. 
Out of the neglected riches of this dream the poet 
fetches his wares. He dips into the chaos that underlies 
the rational shell of the world and brings up some super 
fluous image, some emotion dropped by the way, and 
reattaches it to the present object ; he reinstates things 
unnecessary, he emphasizes things ignored, he paints in 
again into the landscape the tints which the intellect has 
allowed to fade from it. If he seems sometimes to obscure 
a fact, it is only because he is restoring an experience. 
The first element which the intellect rejects in forming 
its ideas of things is the emotion which accompanies the 
perception ; and this emotion is the first thing the poet 
restores. He stops at the image, because he stops to enjoy. 
He wanders into the bypaths of association because the 
bypaths are delightful. The love of beauty which made 
him give measure and cadence to his words, the love of 
harmony which made him rhyme them, reappear in his 
imagination and make him select there also the material 
that is itself beautiful, or capable of assuming beautiful 
forms. The link that binds together the ideas, sometimes 
so wide apart, which his wit assimilates, is most often the 
link of emotion ; they have in common some element of 
beauty or of horror. 


POETRY, while truly poetical, never loses sight of initial 
feelings and underlying appeals ; it is incorrigibly tran 
scendental, and takes every present passion and every 
private dream in turn for the core of the universe. By 


creating new signs, or by recasting and crossing those 
which have become conventional, it keeps communication 
massive and instinctive, immersed in music, and inex 
haustible by clear thought. 

Lying is a privilege of poets because they have not 
yet reached the level on which truth and error are dis 
cernible. Veracity and significance are not ideals for a 
primitive mind ; we learn to value them as we learn to 
live, when we discover that the spirit cannot be wholly 
free and solipsistic. To have to distinguish fact from 
fancy is so great a violence to the inner man that not 
only poets, but theologians and philosophers, still protest 
against such a distinction. They urge (what is perfectly 
true for a rudimentary creature) that facts are mere con 
ceptions and conceptions full-fledged facts ; but this in 
teresting embryonic lore they apply, in their intellectual 
weakness, to retracting or undermining those human cate 
gories which, though alone fruitful or applicable in life, 
are not congenial to their half-formed imagination. 
Retreating deeper into the inner chaos, they bring to 
bear the whole momentum of an irresponsible dialectic 
to frustrate the growth of representative ideas. In this 
they are genuine, if somewhat belated, poets, experi 
menting anew with solved problems, and fancying how 
creation might have moved upon other lines. 

The great merit that prose shares with science is that 
it is responsible. Its conscience is a new and wiser imagina 
tion, by which creative thought is rendered cumulative 
and progressive ; for a man does not build less boldly 
or solidly if he takes the precaution of building in baked 
brick. Prose is in itself meagre and bodiless, merely 
indicating the riches of the world. Its transparency helps 
us to look through it to the issue, and the signals it gives 
fill the mind with an honest assurance and a prophetic 
art far nobler than any ecstasy. 

As men of action have a better intelligence than poets, 
if only their action is on a broad enough stage, so the prosaic 
rendering of experience has the greater value, if only the 
experience rendered covers enough human interests. 
Youth and aspiration indulge in poetry ; a mature and 
masterful mind will often despise it, and prefer to express 


itself laconically in prose. It is clearly proper that prosaic 
habits should supervene in this way on the poetical ; for 
youth, being as yet little fed by experience, can find volume 
and depth only in the soul ; the half-seen, the supra- 
mundane, the inexpressible, seem to it alone beautiful 
and worthy of homage. Time modifies this sentiment 
in two directions. It breeds lassitude and indifference 
towards impracticable ideals, originally no less worthy 
than the practicable. Ideals which cannot be realized, 
and are not fed at least by partial realizations, soon grow 
dormant. Life-blood passes to other veins ; the urgent 
and palpitating interests of life appear in other quarters. 
While things impossible thus lose their serious charm, 
things actual reveal their natural order and variety ; 
these not only can entertain the mind abstractly, but they 
can offer a thousand material rewards in observation and 
action. In their presence, a private dream begins to look 
rather cheap and hysterical. Not that existence has any 
dignity or prerogative in abstraction from will, but that 
will itself, being elastic, grows definite and firm when it 
is fed by success ; and its formed and expressible ideals 
then put to shame the others, which have remained vague 
for want of practical expression. Mature interests centre 
on soluble problems and tasks capable of execution ; it 
is at such points that the ideal can be really served. The 
individual s dream straightens and reassures itself by 
merging with the dream of humanity. To dwell, as 
irrational poets do, on some private experience, on some 
emotion without representative or ulterior value, then 
seems a waste of time. Fiction becomes less interesting 
than affairs, and poetry turns into a sort of incompetent 
whimper, a childish foreshortening of the outspread world. 
On the other hand, prose has a great defect, which is 
abstractness. It drops the volume of experience in finding 
bodiless algebraic symbols by which to express it. Prose 
seems to be a use of language in the service of material 
life. It would tend, in that case, to undermine its 
own basis ; for in proportion as signals for action are 
quick and efficacious they diminish their sensuous stimulus 
and fade from consciousness. Were language such a set 
of signals it would be something merely instrumental, 


which if made perfect ought to be automatic and uncon 
scious. It would be a buzzing in the ears, not a music 
native to the mind. Such a theory of language would 
treat it as a necessary evil and would look forward hope 
fully to the extinction of literature, in which it would 
recognize no intrinsic value. There is of course no reason 
to deprecate the use of vocables, or of any other material 
agency, to expedite affairs ; but a fine art of speech has to 
supervene upon a mere code of signals if speech is to add 
any ultimate charm to life. Prose, could it be purely 
indicative, would be ideally superfluous. A literary 
prose accordingly owns a double allegiance, and its life 
is amphibious. It must convey intelligence, but intelli 
gence clothed in a language that lends the message an 
intrinsic value, and makes it delightful to apprehend 
apart from its importance in ultimate theory or practice. 
Prose is in that measure a fine art. It might be called 
poetry that had become pervasively representative, and 
was altogether faithful to its rational function. 


THERE is both truth and illusion in the saying that primitive 
poets are sublime. Genesis and the Iliad (works doubtless 
backed by a long tradition) are indeed sublime. Primitive 
men, having perhaps developed language before the other 
arts, used it with singular directness to describe the chief 
episodes of life, which was all that life as yet contained. 
They had frank passions and saw- things from single points 
of view. A breath from that early world seems to enlarge 
our natures, and to restore to language, which we have 
sophisticated, all its magnificence and truth. But there 
is more, for language is spontaneous ; it constitutes an act 
before it registers an observation. It gives vent to emotion 
before it is adjusted to things external and reduced, as it 
were, to its own echo rebounding from a refractory world. 
The lion s roar, the bellowing of bulls, even the sea s 
cadence has a great sublimity. Though hardly in itself 


poetry, an animal cry, when still audible in human language, 
renders it also the unanswerable, the ultimate voice of 
nature. Nothing can so pierce the soul as the uttermost 
sigh of the body. An intense, inhospitable mind, filled 
with a single idea, in which all animal, social, and moral 
interests are fused together, speaks a language of incom 
parable force. Thus the Hebrew prophets, in their savage 
concentration, poured into one torrent all that their souls 
possessed or could dream of. What other men are wont 
to pursue in politics, business, religion, or art, they 
looked for from one wave of national repentance and 
consecration. Their age, swept by this ideal passion, 
possessed at the same time a fresh and homely vocabulary ; 
and the result was an eloquence so elemental and combative, 
so imaginative and so bitterly practical, that the world 
has never heard its like. Such single-mindedness, with 
such heroic simplicity in words and images, is hardly 
possible in a late civilization. Cultivated poets are not 
unconsciously sublime. 

The sublimity of early utterances should not be hailed, 
however, with unmixed admiration. It is a sublimity 
born of defect or at least of disproportion. The will 
asserts itself magnificently ; images, like thunderclouds, 
seem to cover half the firmament at once. But such a will 
is sadly inexperienced ; it has hardly tasted or even 
conceived any possible or high satisfactions. Its lurid 
firmament is poor in stars. To throw the whole mind 
upon something is not so great a feat when the mind has 
nothing else to throw itself upon. Every animal when 
goaded becomes intense ; and it is perhaps merely the 
apathy in which mortals are wont to live that keeps them 
from being habitually sublime in their sentiments. The 
sympathy that makes a sheep hasten after its fellows, in 
vague alarm or in vague affection ; the fierce premonitions 
that drive a bull to the heifer ; the patience with which 
a hen sits on her eggs ; the loyalty which a dog shows 
to his master what thoughts may not all these instincts 
involve, which it needs only a medium of communication 
to translate into poetry ? 

Memorable nonsense, or sound with a certain hypnotic 
power, is the really primitive and radical form of poetry. 


Nor is such poetry yet extinct : children still love and 
compose it, and every genuine poet, on one side of his 
genius, reverts to it from explicit speech. As all language 
has acquired its meaning, and did not have it in the 
beginning, so the man who launches a new locution, the 
poet who creates a symbol, must do so without knowing 
what significance it may eventually acquire, and con 
scious at best only of the emotional background from 
which it emerged. Pure poetry is pure experiment ; and 
it is not strange that nine-tenths of it should be pure 
failure. For it matters little what unutterable things 
may have originally gone together with a phrase in the 
dreamer s mind ; if they were not uttered and the phrase 
cannot call them back, this verbal relic is none the richer 
for the high company it may once have kept. Expressive 
ness is a most accidental matter. What a line suggests 
at one reading, it may never suggest again even to the 
same person. For this reason, among others, poets are 
partial to their own compositions ; they truly discover 
there depths of meaning which exist for nobody else. 
Those readers who appropriate a poet and make him their 
own fall into a similar illusion ; they attribute to him 
what they themselves supply, and whatever he reels out, 
lost in his own personal reverie, seems to them, like sortes 
biUicae, written to fit their own case. 

Justice has never been done to Plato s remarkable 
consistency and boldness in declaring that poets are 
inspired by a divine madness and yet, when they trans 
gress rational bounds, are to be banished from an ideal 
republic, though not without some marks of platonic regard. 
Instead of fillets, a modern age might assign them a coterie 
of flattering dames, and instead of banishment, starvation ; 
but the result would be the same in the end. A poet 
is inspired because what occurs in his brain is a true 
experiment in creation. His apprehension plays with 
words and their meanings as nature, in any spontaneous 
variation, plays with her own structure. A mechanical 
force shifts the kaleidoscope ; a new direction is given to 
growth or a new gist to signification. This inspiration, 
moreover, is mad, being wholly ignorant of its own issue ; 
and though it has a confused fund of experience and verbal 


habit on which to draw, it draws on this fund blindly and 
quite at random, consciously possessed by nothing but a 
certain stress and pregnancy and the pains, as it were, of 
parturition. Finally the new birth has to be inspected 
critically by the public censor before it is allowed to live ; 
most probably it is too feeble and defective to prosper 
in the common air, or is a monster that violates some 
primary rule of civic existence, tormenting itself to disturb 

Plato seems to have exaggerated the havoc which these 
poetic dragons can work in the world. They are in fact 
more often absurd than venomous, and no special legislation 
is needed to abolish them. They soon die quietly of 
universal neglect. The poetry that ordinarily circulates 
among a people is poetry of a secondary and conventional 
sort that propagates established ideas in trite metaphors. 
Popular poets are the parish priests of the Muse, retailing 
her ancient divinations to a long since converted public. 
As a tree in the autumn sheds leaves and seeds together, 
so a ripening experience comes indifferently to various 
manifestations, some barren and without further function, 
others fit to carry the parent experience over into another 
mind, and give it a new embodiment there. Expressive 
ness in the former case is dead, like that of a fossil ; in 
the latter it is living and efficacious, recreating its original. 
The first is idle self-manifestation, the second rational 

A poet, spokesman of his full soul at a given moment, 
cannot consider eventualities or think of anything but the 
message he is sent to deliver, whether the world can then 
hear it or not. God, he may feel sure, understands him, 
and in the eternal the beauty he sees and loves immortally 
justifies his enthusiasm. Nevertheless, critics must view 
his momentary ebullition from another side. They do 
not come to justify the poet in his own eyes ; he amply 
relieves them of such a function. They come only to 
inquire how significant the poet s expressions are for 
humanity at large or for whatever public he addresses. 
They come to register the social or representative value 
of the poet s soul. His inspiration may have been an odd 
cerebral rumbling, a perfectly irrecoverable and wasted 


intuition ; the exquisite quality it doubtless had to his 
own sense is now not to the purpose. A work of art is 
a public possession ; it is addressed to the world. By 
taking on a material embodiment, a spirit solicits attention 
and claims some kinship with the prevalent gods. Has 
it, critics should ask, the affinities needed for such inter 
course ? Is it humane, is it rational, is it friendly to the 
rest of the soul ? To its inherent incommunicable charms 
it must add a kind of courtesy. If it wants other approval 
than its own, it cannot afford to regard no other aspiration. 


THERE are two directions in which it seems fitting that 
rational art should proceed, on the basis which a limited 
experience can give it. Art may come to buttress a 
particular form of life, or it may come to express it. All 
that we call industry, science, business, morality, buttresses 
our life ; it informs us about our conditions and adjusts 
us to them ; it equips us for life ; it lays out the ground 
for the game we are to play. This preliminary labour, 
however, need not be servile. To do it is also to exercise 
our faculties ; and in that exercise our faculties may grow 
free, as the imagination of Lucretius, in tracing the 
course of the atoms, dances and soars most congenially. 
One extension of art, then, would be in the direction 
of doing artistically, joyfully, sympathetically, whatever 
we have to do. Literature in particular (which is involved 
in history, politics, science, affairs) might be throughout 
a work of art. It would become so not by being ornate, 
but by being appropriate ; and the sense of a great pre 
cision and justness would come over us as we read or 
wrote. It would delight us ; it would make us see how 
beautiful, how satisfying, is the art of being observant, 
economical, and sincere. The philosophical or compre 
hensive poet, like Homer, like Shakespeare, would be a poet 
of business. He would have a taste for the world in which 
he lived, and a clean view of it. 


There remains a second form of rational art, that of 
expressing the ideal towards which we would move under 
these improved conditions. For as we react we manifest 
an inward principle, expressed in that reaction. We have 
a nature that selects its own direction, and the direction 
in which practical arts shall transform the world. The 
outer life is for the sake of the inner ; discipline is for the 
sake of freedom, and conquest for the sake of self-possession. 
This inner life is wonderfully redundant ; there is, namely, 
very much more in it than a consciousness of those acts 
by which the body adjusts itself to its surroundings. Am 
farbigen A bglanz haben wir das Leben ; each sense has its 
arbitrary quality, each language its arbitrary euphony 
and prosody ; every game has its creative laws, every 
soul its own tender reverberations and secret dreams. 
Life has a margin of play which might grow broader, if 
the sustaining nucleus were more firmly established in the 
world. To the art of working well a civilized race would 
add the art of playing well. To play with nature and make 
it decorative, to play with the overtones of life and make 
them delightful, is a sort of art. It is the ultimate, the 
most artistic sort of art, but it will never be practised 
successfully so long as the other sort of art is in a backward 
state ; for if we do not know our environment, we shall 
mistake our dreams for a part of it, and so spoil our science 
by making it fantastic, and our dreams by making them 
obligatory. The art and the religion of the past, as 
we see conspicuously in Dante, have fallen into this 
error. To correct it would be to establish a new 
religion and a new art, based on moral liberty and on 
moral courage. 

Who shall be the poet of this double insight ? He has 
never existed, but he is needed nevertheless. It is time 
some genius should appear to reconstitute the shattered 
picture of the world. He should live in the continual 
presence of all experience, and respect it ; he should at the 
same time understand nature, the ground of that experience ; 
and he should also have a delicate sense for the ideal 
echoes of his own passions, and for all the colours of his 
possible happiness. All that can inspire a poet is contained 
in this task, and nothing less than this task would exhaust 


a poet s inspiration. We may hail this needed genius 
from afar. Like the poets in Dante s limbo, when Virgil 
returns among them, we may salute him, saying : Quorate 
I altissimo poeta. Honour the most high poet, honour the 
highest possible poet. But this supreme poet is in limbo 






OUR ignorance of the life of a great writer is not, I think, 
much to be regretted. His work preserves that part 
of him which he himself would have wished to preserve. 
Perfect conviction ignores itself, proclaiming the public 
truth. To reach this no doubt requires a peculiar genius 
which is called intelligence ; for intelligence is quickness 
in seeing things as they are. But where intelligence is 
attained, the rest of a man, like the scaffolding to a finished 
building, becomes irrelevant. We do not wish it to inter 
cept our view of the solid structure, which alone was 
intended by the artist if he was building for others, 
and was not a coxcomb. It is his intellectual vision that 
the naturalist in particular wishes to hand down to posterity, 
not the shabby incidents that preceded that vision in his 
own person. These incidents, even if they were by chance 
interesting, could not be repeated in us ; but the vision 
into which the thinker poured his faculties, and to which 
he devoted his vigils, is communicable to us also, and may 
become a part of ourselves. 


WHEN chaos has penetrated into the moral being of nations 
they can hardly be expected to produce great men. A 
great man need not be virtuous nor his opinions right, 
but he must have a firm mind, a distinctive, luminous 
character ; if he is to dominate things something must 



be dominant in him. We feel him to be great in that he 
clarifies and brings to expression something which was 
potential in the rest of us but which with our burden of 
flesh and circumstance we were too torpid to utter. The 
great man is a spontaneous variation in humanity ; but 
not in any direction. A spontaneous variation might 
be a mere madness or mutilation or monstrosity; in 
finding the variation admirable we evidently invoke 
some principle of order to which it conforms. Perhaps 
it makes explicit what was preformed in us also ; as 
when a poet finds the absolutely right phrase for a feeling, 
or when nature suddenly astonishes us with a form of 
absolute beauty. Or perhaps it makes an unprecedented 
harmony out of things existing before, but jangled and 
detached. The first man was a great man for this latter 
reason ; having been an ape perplexed and corrupted 
by his multiplying instincts, he suddenly found a new 
way of being decent, by harnessing all those instincts 
together, through memory and imagination, and giving 
each in turn a measure of its due ; which is what we call 
being rational. It is a new road to happiness, if you 
have strength enough to castigate a little the various 
impulses that sway you in turn. Why then is the martyr, 
who sacrifices everything to one attraction, distinguished 
from the criminal or the fool, who do the same thing ? 
Evidently because the spirit that in the martyr destroys 
the body is the very spirit which the body is stifling in 
the rest of us ; and although his private inspiration may 
be irrational, the tendency of it is not, but reduces the 
public conscience to act before any one else has had the 
courage to do so. Greatness is spontaneous ; simplicity, 
trust in some one clear instinct, are essential to it ; but 
the spontaneous variation must be in the direction of some 
possible sort of order ; it must exclude and leave behind 
what is incapable of being moralized. How, then, should 
there be any great heroes, saints, artists, philosophers, 
or legislators in an age when nobody trusts himself, or feels 
any confidence in reason, in an age when the word dogmatic 
is a term of reproach ? Greatness has character and 
severity, it is deep and sane, it is distinct and perfect. 
For this reason there is none of it to-day. 


There is indeed another kind of greatness, or rather 
largeness of mind, which consists in being a synthesis of 
humanity in its current phases, even if without prophetic 
emphasis or direction : the breadth of a Goethe, rather 
than the fineness of a Shelley or a Leopardi. But such 
largeness of mind, not to be vulgar, must be impartial, 
comprehensive, Olympian ; it would not be greatness if 
its miscellany were not dominated by a clear genius and 
if before the confusion of things the poet or philosopher 
were not himself delighted, exalted, and by no means 
confused. Nor does this presume omniscience on his 
part. It is not necessary to fathom the ground or the 
structure of everything in order to know what to make 
of it. Stones do not disconcert a builder because he may 
not happen to know what they are chemically ; and so 
the unsolved problems of life and nature, and the Babel of 
society, need not disturb the genial observer, though he 
may be incapable of unravelling them. He may set these 
dark spots down in their places, like so many caves or 
wells in a landscape, without feeling bound to scrutinize 
their depths simply because their depths are obscure. 
Unexplored they may have a sort of lustre, explored they 
might merely make him blind, and it may be a sufficient 
understanding of them to know that they are not worth 
investigating. In this way the most chaotic age and the 
most motley horrors might be mirrored limpidly in a 
great mind, as the Renaissance was mirrored in the works 
of Raphael and Shakespeare ; but the master s eye 
itself must be single, his style unmistakable, his visionary 
interest in what he depicts frank and supreme. Hence 
this comprehensive sort of greatness too is impossible 
in an age when moral confusion is pervasive, when 
characters are complex, undecided, troubled by the mere 
existence of what is not congenial to them, eager to be 
not themselves ; when, in a word, thought is weak and 
the flux of things overwhelms it. The mind has forgotten 
its proper function, which is to crown life by quickening 
it into intelligence, and thinks if it could only prove that 
it accelerated life, that might perhaps justify its existence ; 
like a philosopher at sea who, to make himself useful, 
should blow into the sail. 


A great imaginative apathy has fallen on the mind. 
One-half the learned world is amused in tinkering obsolete 
armour, as Don Quixote did his helmet ; deputing it, 
after a series of catastrophes, to be at last sound and 
invulnerable. The other half, the naturalists who have 
studied psychology and evolution, look at life from the 
outside, and the processes of nature make them forget 
her uses. Bacon indeed had prized science for adding 
to the comforts of life, a function still commemorated by 
positivists in their eloquent moments. Habitually, how 
ever, when they utter the word progress it is, in their 
mouths, a synonym for inevitable change, or at best for 
change in that direction which they conceive to be on 
the whole predominant. If they combine with physical 
speculation some elements of morals, these are usually 
purely formal, to the effect that happiness is to be pursued 
(probably, alas ! because to do so is a psychological law) ; 
but what happiness consists in we gather only from casual 
observations or by putting together their national pre 
judices and party saws. 

The truth is that even this radical school, emancipated 
as it thinks itself, is suffering from the after-effects of 
supernaturalism. Like children escaped from school, 
they find their whole happiness in freedom. They are 
proud of how much they have rejected, as if a great wit 
were required to do so ; but they do not know what they 
want. If you astonish them by demanding what is their 
positive ideal, further than that there should be a great 
many people and that they should be all alike, they will 
say at first that what ought to be is obvious, and later 
they will submit the matter to a majority vote. They have 
discarded the machinery in which their ancestors embodied 
the ideal ; they have not perceived that those symbols 
stood for the life of reason and gave fantastic and em 
barrassed expression to what, in itself, is pure humanity ; 
and they have thus remained entangled in the colossal 
error that ideals are something adventitious and unmean 
ing, not having a soil in mortal life nor a possible fulfil 
ment there. 



TRUSTFUL faith in evolution and a longing for intense 
life are characteristic of contemporary sentiment, 1 but 
they do not appear to be consistent with that contempt 
for the intellect which is no less characteristic of it. Human 
intelligence is certainly a product, and a late and highly 
organized product, of evolution ; it ought apparently 
to be as much admired as the eyes of molluscs or the 
antennae of ants. And if life is better the more intense 
and concentrated it is, intelligence would seem to be the 
best form of life. But the degree of intelligence which 
this age possesses makes it so very uncomfortable that, 
in this instance, it asks for something less vital, and sighs 
for what evolution has left behind. In the presence of 
such cruelly distinct things as astronomy or such cruelly 
confused things as theology it feels la nostalgie de la boue. 
Finding their intelligence enslaved, our contemporaries 
suppose that intelligence is essentially servile ; instead 
of freeing it, they try to elude it. Their philosophy is an 
effort to realize this revulsion, to disintegrate intelligence 
and stimulate sympathetic experience. Its charm lies 
in the relief which it brings to a stale imagination, an 
imagination from which religion has vanished and which 
is kept stretched on the machinery of business and society, 
or on small half -borrowed passions which they clothe in 
a mean rhetoric and dot with vulgar pleasures. Not free 
enough themselves morally, but bound to the world partly 
by piety and partly by industrialism, they cannot think 
of rising to a detached contemplation of earthly things, 
and of life itself and evolution ; they revert rather to 
sensibility, and seek some by-path of instinct or dramatic 
sympathy in which to wander. Having no stomach for 
the ultimate, they burrow downwards towards the primi 
tive. But the longing to be primitive is a disease of culture ; 
it is archaism in morals. To be so preoccupied with vitality 
is a symptom of anaemia. 

1 Written in 1912. 


When life was really vigorous and young, in Homeric 
times for instance, no one seemed to fear that it might be 
squeezed out of existence either by the incubus of matter 
or by the petrifying blight of intelligence. Life was like 
the light of day, something to use, or to waste, or to enjoy. 
It was not a thing to worship ; and often the chief luxury 
of living consisted in dealing death about vigorously. 
Life indeed was loved, and the beauty and pathos of it 
were felt exquisitely ; but its beauty and pathos lay in 
the divineness of its model and in its own fragility. No 
one paid it the equivocal compliment of thinking it a 
substance or a material force. Nobility was not then 
impossible in sentiment, because there were ideals in life 
higher and more indestructible than life itself, which life 
might illustrate and to which it might fitly be sacrificed. 
Nothing can be meaner than the anxiety to live on, to 
live on anyhow and in any shape ; a spirit with any 
honour is not willing to live except in its own way, and 
a spirit with any wisdom is not over-eager to live at all. 
In those days men recognized immortal gods and resigned 
\ themselves to being mortal. Yet those were the truly 
vital and instinctive days of the human spirit. Only 
when vitality is low do people find material things oppres 
sive and ideal things unsubstantial. Now there is more 
motion than life, and more haste than force ; we are 
driven to distraction by the ticking of the tiresome clocks, 
material and social, by which we are obliged to regulate 
our existence. We need ministering angels to fly to us 
from somewhere, even if it be from the depths of proto 
plasm. We must bathe in the currents of some non- 
human vital flood, like consumptives in their last extremity 
who must bask in the sunshine and breathe the mountain 
air ; and our disease is not without its sophistry to con 
vince us that we were never so well before, or so mightily 
conscious of being alive. 

Without great men and without clear convictions this 
age is nevertheless very active intellectually ; it is studious, 
empirical, inventive, sympathetic. Its wisdom consists 
in a certain contrite openness of mind ; it flounders, but 
at least in floundering it has gained a sense of possible 
depths in all directions. Under these circumstances, 


some triviality and great confusion in its positive achieve 
ments are not unpromising things, nor even unamiable. 
These are the Wander jahre of faith ; it looks smilingly 
at every new face, which might perhaps be that of a pre 
destined friend ; it chases after any engaging stranger ; 
it even turns up again from time to time at home, full 
of a new tenderness for all it had abandoned there. But 
to settle down would be impossible now. The intellect, 
the judgment are in abeyance. Life is running turbid 
and full ; and it is no marvel that reason, after vainly 
supposing that it ruled the world, should abdicate as 
gracefully as possible, when the world is so obviously 
the sport of cruder powers vested interests, tribal passions, 
stock sentiments, and chance majorities. Having no 
responsibility laid upon it, reason has become irresponsible. 
Many critics and philosophers seem to conceive that 
thinking aloud is itself literature. Sometimes reason 
tries to lend some moral authority to its present masters, 
by proving how superior they are to itself ; it worships 
evolution, instinct, novelty, action. At other times it 
retires into the freehold of those temperaments whom 
this world has ostracized, the region of the non-existent, 
and comforts itself with its indubitable conquests there. 
Indeed, what happens to exist is too alien and accidental 
to absorb all the play of a free mind, whose function, after 
it has come to clearness and made its peace with things, 
is to touch them with its own moral and intellectual light, 
and to exist for its own sake. 


LANGUAGE, with the logic embedded in it, is a repository 
of terms fixed by identifying successive appearances, as 
the external world is a repository of objects conceived 
by superposing appearances that exist together. Being 
formed on different principles these two orders of con 
ception the logical and the physical do not coincide, 
and the attempt to fuse them into one system of demon- 


strable reality or moral physics is doomed to failure by 
the very nature of the terms compared. When the 
Eleatics proved the impossibility i.e., the inexpressibility 
of motion, or when Kant and his followers proved the 
imaginary character of all objects of experience and of all 
natural knowledge, their task was made easy by the native 
diversity between the concretions in existence which were 
the object of their thought and the concretions in discourse 
which were its measure. The two do not fit ; and intrenched 
as these philosophers were in the forms of logic they com 
pelled themselves to reject as unthinkable everything not 
fully expressible in those particular forms. Thus they took 
their revenge upon the vulgar who, being busy chiefly 
with material things and dwelling in an atmosphere of 
sensuous images, call unreal and abstract every product 
of logical construction or reflective analysis. These 
logical products, however, are not really abstract, but, 
as we have said, concretions arrived at by a different 
method than that which results in material conceptions. 
Whereas the conception of a thing is a local conglomerate 
of several simultaneous appearances, logical entity is 
recognized by a fusion in memory of similar appearances 
temporally distinct. 

Thus the many armed with prejudice and the few armed 
with logic fight an eternal battle, the logician charging 
the physical world with unintelligibility and the man of 
common-sense charging the logical world with abstractness 
and unreality. The former view is the more profound, 
since association by similarity is the more elementary and 
gives constancy to meanings ; while the latter view is 
the more practical, since association by contiguity alone 
informs the mind about the mechanical sequence of its 
own experience. Neither principle can be dispensed with, 
and each errs only in denouncing the other and wishing to 
be omnivorous, as if on the one hand logic could make 
anybody understand the history of events and the con 
junction of objects, or on the other hand as if cognitive 
and moral processes could have any other terms than 
constant and ideal natures. The namable essence of 
things or the standard of values must always be an 
ideal figment ; existence must always be an empirical 


fact. The former remains always remote from natural 
existence and the latter irreducible to a logical principle. 

Reliance on external perception, constant appeals to 
concrete fact and physical sanctions, have always led the 
mass of reasonable men to magnify concretions in existence 
and belittle concretions in discourse. They are too clever, 
as they feel, to mistake words for things. The most 
authoritative thinker on this subject, because the most 
mature, Aristotle himself, taught that things had reality, 
individuality, independence, and were the outer cause of 
perception, while general ideas, products of association by 
similarity, existed only in the mind. The public, pleased 
at its ability to understand this doctrine and overlooking 
the more incisive part of the philosopher s teaching, could 
go home comforted and believing that material things were 
primary and perfect entities, while ideas were only abstrac 
tions, effects those realities produced on our incapable 
minds. Aristotle, however, had a juster view of general 
concepts and made in the end the whole material universe 
gravitate around them and feel their influence, though in 
a metaphysical and magic fashion to which a more advanced 
natural science need no longer appeal. While in the shock 
of life man was always coming upon the accidental, in the 
quiet of reflection he could not but recast everything in 
ideal moulds and retain nothing but eternal natures and 
intelligible relations. Aristotle conceived that while the 
origin of knowledge lay in the impact of matter upon 
sense its goal was the comprehension of essences, and 
that while man was involved by his animal nature in 
the accidents of experience he was also by virtue of his 
rationality a participator in eternal truth. A substantial 
justice was thus done both to the conditions and to the 
functions of human life, although, for want of a natural 
history inspired by mechanical ideas, this double allegiance 
remained somewhat baffling and incomprehensible in its 
basis. Aristotle, being a true philosopher and pupil of 
experience, preferred incoherence to partiality. 



THE English psychologists who first disintegrated the idea 
of substance did not study the question wholly for its 
own sake or in the spirit of a science that aims at nothing 
but a historical analysis of mind. They had a more or 
less malicious purpose behind their psychology. They 
thought that if they could once show how metaphysical 
ideas are made they would discredit those ideas and banish 
them for ever from the world. If they retained confidence 
in any notion as Hobbes in body, Locke in matter and in 
God, Berkeley in spirits, and Kant, the inheritor of this 
malicious psychology, in the thing-in-itself and in heaven 
it was merely by inadvertence or want of courage. The 
principle of their reasoning, where they chose to apply it, 
was always this, that ideas whose materials could all be 
accounted for in consciousness and referred to sense or 
to the operations of mind were thereby exhausted and 
deprived of further validity. Only the unaccountable, or 
rather the uncriticized, could be true. Consequently the 
advance of psychology meant, in this school, the retreat 
of reason ; for as one notion after another was clarified 
and reduced to its elements it was ipso facto deprived of its 
function. It became impossible to be at once quite serious 
and quite intelligent ; for to use reason was to indulge in 
subjective fiction, while conscientiously to abstain from 
using it was to sink back upon inarticulate and brutish 

In Hume this sophistication was frankly avowed. 
Philosophy discredited itself ; but a man of parts, who 
loved intellectual games even better than backgammon, 
might take a hand with the wits and historians of his day, 
until the clock struck twelve and the party was over. 
Even in Kant, though the mood was more cramped and 
earnest, the mystical sophistication was quite the same. 
Kant, too, imagined that the bottom had been knocked 
out of the world. Since space and time could not repel 
the accusation of being the necessary forms of perception, 


space and time were not to be much thought of ; and 
when the sad truth was disclosed that causality and the 
categories were instruments by which the idea of nature 
had to be constructed, if such an idea was to exist at all, 
then nature and causality shrivelled up and were dishonoured 
together ; so that, the soul s occupation being gone, she 
must needs appeal to some mysterious oracle, some abstract 
and irrelevant omen within the breast, and muster up all 
the stern courage of an accepted despair to carry her 
through this world of mathematical illusion into some 
green and infantile paradise beyond. 


IN the melodramatic fashion so common in what is called 
philosophy we may delight ourselves with such flashes 
of lightning as this : esse est percipi. The truth of this 
paradox lies in the fact that through perception alone can 
we get at being a modest and familiar notion which 
makes, as Plato s Theaetetus shows, not a bad point of 
departure for a serious theory of knowledge. The 
sophistical intent of it, however, is to deny our right to 
make a distinction which in fact we do make and which the 
speaker himself is making as he utters the phrase ; for he 
would not be so proud of himself if he thought he was 
thundering a tautology. If a thing were never perceived, 
or inferred from perception, we should indeed never know 
that it existed ; but after we become aware that we have 
perceived or inferred it, it may remain conducive to 
comprehension and practical competence to continue to 
regard it as existing independently of our perception ; 
and our ability to make this supposition is registered in 
the difference between the two words to be and to be perceived 
words which are by no means synonymous but designate 
two very different relations of things to thought. Such 
idealism at one fell swoop, through a collapse of assertive 
intellect with a withdrawal of reason into self-conscious 
ness, has the puzzling character of any clever pun, that 


suspends the fancy between two incompatible but irre 
sistible meanings. The art of such sophistry is to choose 
for an axiom some ambiguous phrase which taken in one 
sense is a truism and taken in another is an absurdity ; 
and then, by showing the truth of that truism, to give out 
that the absurdity has also been proved. It is a truism 
to say that I am the only seat or locus of my ideas, and 
that whatever I know is known by me ; it is an absurdity 
to say that I am the only object of my thought and 

To confuse the instrument with its function and the 
operation with its meaning has been a persistent foible in 
modern philosophy. It could thus come about that the 
function of intelligence should be altogether misconceived 
and in consequence denied, when it was discovered that 
figments of reason could never become elements of sense 
but must always remain, as of course they should, ideal 
and regulative objects, and therefore objects to which a 
practical and energetic intellect will tend to give the name 
of realities. Matter is a reality to the practical intellect 
because it is a necessary and ideal term in the mastery 
of experience ; while negligible sensations, like dreams, 
are called illusions by the same authority because, though 
actual enough while they last, they have no sustained 
function and no right to practical dominion. 


KANT is remarkable among sincere philosophers for the 
pathetic separation which existed between his personal 
beliefs and his official discoveries. His personal beliefs 
were mild and half orthodox and hardly differed from 
those of Leibniz ; but officially he was entangled in the 
subjective criticism of knowledge, and found that the 
process of knowing was so complicated, and so exquisitely 
contrived to make knowledge impossible, that while the 
facts of the universe were there, and we might have, like 
Leibniz, a shrewd and exact notion of what they were, 

KANT 171 

officially we had no right to call them facts or to allege 
that we knew them. As there was much in Kant s personal 
belief which this critical method of his could not sanction, 
so there were implications and consequences latent in his 
critical method which he never absorbed, being an old man 
when he adopted it. One of these latent implications was 

The fact that each spirit was confined to its own per 
ceptions condemned it to an initial subjectivity and 
agnosticism. What things might exist besides his ideas 
he could never know. That such things existed was not 
doubted ; Kant never accepted that amazing principle 
of dogmatic egotism that nothing is able to exist unless 
I am able to know it. On the contrary he assumed that 
human perceptions, with the moral postulates which he 
added to them, were symbols of a real world of forces 
or spirits existing beyond. This assumption reduced our 
initial idiotism to a constitutional taint of our animal 
minds, not unlike original sin, and excluded that romantic 
pride and self-sufficiency in which a full-fledged transcen 
dentalism always abounds. 

To this contrite attitude of Kant s agnosticism his 
personal character and ethics corresponded. A wizened 
little old bachelor, a sedentary provincial scribe, scrupulous 
and punctual, a courteous moralist who would have us 
treat humanity in the person of another as an end and 
never merely as a means, a pacifist and humanitarian who 
so revered the moral sense according to Shaftesbury and 
Adam Smith that, after having abolished earth and heaven, 
he was entirely comforted by the sublime truth that never 
theless it remained wrong to tell a lie such a figure has 
nothing in it of the officious egotist or the superman. 
Yet his very love of exactitude and his scruples about 
knowledge, misled by the psychological fallacy that 
nothing can be an object of knowledge except some idea 
in the mind, led him in the end to subjectivism ; while 
his rigid conscience, left standing in that unnatural void, 
led him to attribute absoluteness to what he called the 
categorical imperative. But this void outside and this 
absolute oracle within are germs of egotism, and germs of 
the most virulent species. 


The categorical imperative, or unmistakable voice of 
conscience, was originally something external enough 
too external, indeed, to impose by itself a moral obligation. 
The thunders of Sinai and the voice from the whirlwind in 
Job fetched their authority from the suggestion of power ; 
there spoke an overwhelming physical force of which we 
were the creatures and the playthings, a voice which far 
from interpreting our sense of justice, or our deepest hopes, 
threatened to crush and to flout them. If some of its 
commandments were moral, others were ritual or even 
barbarous ; the only moral sanction common to them all 
came from our natural prudence and love of life ; our 
wisdom imposed on us the fear of the Lord. The prophets 
and the gospel did much to identify this external divine 
authority with the human conscience ; an identification 
which required a very elaborate theory of sin and punish 
ment and of existence in other worlds, since the actual 
procedure of nature and history can never be squared with 
any ideal of right. 

In Kant, who in this matter followed Calvin, the 
independence between the movement of nature, both 
within and without the soul, and the ideal of right was 
exaggerated into an opposition. The categorical imperative 
was always authoritative, but perhaps never obeyed. 
While matter and life moved on in their own unregenerate 
way, a principle which they ought to follow, overarched 
and condemned them, and constrained them to condemn 
themselves. Human nature was totally depraved and 
incapable of the least merit, nor had it any power of itself 
to become righteous. Its amiable spontaneous virtues, 
having but a natural motive, were splendid vices. Moral 
worth began only when the will, transformed at the touch 
of unmerited grace, surrendered every impulse in over 
whelming reverence for the divine law. 

This Calvinistic doctrine might seem to rebuke all 
actual inclinations, and far from making the will morally 
absolute, as egotism would, to raise over against it an alien 
authority, what ought to be willed. Such was, of course, 
Kant s ostensible intention ; but sublime as such a situation 
was declared to be, he felt rather dissatisfied in its presence. 
A categorical imperative crying in the wilderness, a duty 

KANT 173 

which nobody need listen to, or suffer for disregarding, 
seemed rather a forlorn authority. To save the face of 
absolute right another world seemed to be required, as in 
orthodox Christianity, in which it might be duly vindicated 
and obeyed. 

Kant s scepticism, by which all knowledge of reality 
was denied us, played conveniently into the hand of this 
pious requirement. If the whole natural world, which we 
can learn something about by experience, is merely an 
idea in our minds, nothing prevents any sort of real but 
unknown world from lying about us unawares. What 
could be more plausible and opportune than that the 
categorical imperative which the human mind, the builder 
of this visible world, had rejected, should in that other 
real world be the head stone of the corner ? 

This happy thought, had it stood alone, might have 
seemed a little fantastic ; but it was only a laboured means 
of re-establishing the theology of Leibniz, in which Kant 
privately believed, behind the transcendental idealism 
which he had put forward professorially. The dogmatic 
system from which he started seemed to him, as it stood, 
largely indefensible and a little oppressive. To purify it 
he adopted a fallacious principle of criticism, namely, that 
our ideas are all we can know, a principle which, if carried 
out, would undermine that whole system, and every other. 
He, therefore, hastened to adopt a corrective principle of 
reconstruction, no less fallacious, namely, that conscience 
bids us assume certain things to be realities which reason 
and experience know nothing of. This brought him round 
to a qualified and ambiguous form of his original dogmas, 
to the effect that although there was no reason to think 
that God, heaven, and free-will exist, we ought to act as 
if they existed, and might call that wilful action of ours 
faith in their existence. 

Thus in the philosophy of Kant there was a stimulating 
ambiguity in the issue. He taught rather less than he 
secretly believed, and his disciples, seizing the principle 
of his scepticism, but lacking his conservative instincts, 
believed rather less than he taught them. Doubtless in 
his private capacity Kant hoped, if he did not believe, 
that God, free-will, and another life subsisted in fact, as 


every believer had hitherto supposed ; it was only the 
method of proving their reality that had been illegitimate. 
For no matter how strong the usual arguments might seem 
(and they did not seem very strong) they could convey no 
transcendent assurance ; on the contrary, the more proofs 
you draw for anything from reason and experience, the 
better you prove that that thing is a mere idea in your 
mind. It was almost prudent, so to speak, that God, 
freedom, and immortality, if they had claims to reality, 
should remain without witness in the sphere of " know 
ledge," as inadvertently or ironically it was still called ; 
but to circumvent this compulsory lack of evidence God 
had at least implanted in us a veridical conscience, which 
if it took itself seriously (as it ought to do, being a conscience) 
would constrain us to postulate what, though we could 
never " know " it, happened to be the truth. Such was 
the way in which the good Kant thought to play hide-and- 
seek with reality. 

Kant had a private mysticism in reserve to raise upon 
the ruins of science and common-sense. Knowledge was 
to be removed to make way for faith. This task is 
ambiguous, and the equivocation involved in it is perhaps 
the deepest of those confusions with which German 
metaphysics has since struggled, and which have made 
it waver between the deepest introspection and the 
dreariest mythology. To substitute faith for knowledge 
might mean to teach the intellect humility, to make it 
aware of its theoretic and transitive function as a faculty 
for hypothesis and rational fiction, building a bridge of 
methodical inferences and ideal unities between fact and 
fact, between endeavour and satisfaction. It might be to 
remind us, sprinkling over us, as it were, the Lenten ashes 
of an intellectual contrition, that our thoughts are air 
even as our bodies are dust, momentary vehicles and 
products of an immortal vitality in God and in nature, 
which fosters and illumines us for a moment before it lapses 
into other forms. 

Had Kant proposed to humble and concentrate into 
a practical faith the same natural ideas which had previously 
been taken for absolute knowledge, his intention would 
have been innocent, his conclusions wise, and his analysis 

KANT 175 

free from venom and arriere-pensee. Man, because of his 
finite and propulsive nature and because he is a pilgrim 
and a traveller throughout his life, is obliged to have faith : 
the absent, the hidden, the eventual, is the necessary 
object of his concern. But what else shall his faith rest 
in except in what the necessary forms of his perception 
present to him and what the indispensable categories of 
his understanding help him to conceive ? What possible 
objects are there for faith except objects of a possible 
experience ? What else should a practical and moral 
philosophy concern itself with, except the governance and 
betterment of the human world ? It is surely by using 
his only possible forms of perception and his inevitably 
categories of understanding that man may yet learn, as he 
has partly learned already, to live and prosper in the 
universe. Had Kant s criticism amounted simply to such 
a confession of the tentative, practical, and hypothetical 
nature of human reason, it would have been wholly 
acceptable to the wise ; and its appeal to faith would have 
been nothing but an expression of natural vitality and 
courage, just as its criticism of knowledge would have 
been nothing but a better acquaintance with self. This 
faith would have called the forces of impulse and passion 
to reason s support, not to its betrayal. Faith would have 
meant faith in the intellect, a faith naturally expressing 
man s practical and ideal nature, and the only faith yet 
sanctioned by its fruits. 

Side by side with this reinstatement of reason, however, 
which was not absent from Kant s system in its critical 
phase and in its application to science, there lurked in his 
substitution of faith for knowledge another and sinister 
intention. He wished to blast as insignificant, because 
" subjective," the whole structure of human intelligence, 
with all the lessons of experience and all the triumphs of 
human skill, and to attach absolute validity instead to 
certain echoes of his rigoristic religious education. These 
notions were surely just as subjective, and far more local 
and transitory, than the common machinery of thought ; 
and it was actually proclaimed to be an evidence of their 
sublimity that they remained entirely without practical 
sanction in the form of success or of happiness. The 


"categorical imperative " was a shadow of the ten com 
mandments ; the postulates of practical reason were the 
minimal tenets of the most abstract Protestantism. These 
fossils, found unaccountably imbedded in the old man s 
mind, he regarded as the evidences of an inward but 
supernatural revelation. 


THE legitimacy of the transcendental method is so obvious 
that it is baffling when unfamiliar and trifling when under 
stood. It is somewhat like the scientific discovery that 
man is an animal ; for in spite of its pompous language 
and unction, transcendentalism, when not transcended, 
is a stopping short at the vegetative and digestive stage 
of consciousness, where nothing seems to be anything 
but a play of variations in the immediate. That is what 
science has risen from ; it is the primordial slime. But 
to stop there and make life consist in hearing the mind 
work is illiberal and childish. Maturity lies in taking 
reason at its word and learning to believe and to do what 
it bids us. Inexperience, pedantry, and mysticism 
three obstacles to wisdom were not absent from those 
academic geniuses by whom transcendentalism was first 
brought forth. They became consequently entangled in 
their profundity, and never were masters of their purposes 
or of their tools. 

It was a thing taken for granted in ancient and scholastic 
philosophy that a being dwelling, like man, in the im 
mediate, whose moments are in flux, needed constructive 
reason to interpret his experience and paint in his unstable 
consciousness some symbolic picture of the world. To 
have reverted to this constructive process and studied 
its stages is an interesting achievement ; but the con 
struction is already made by common-sense and science, 
and it was visionary insolence in the Germans to propose 
to make that construction otherwise. Retrospective self- 
consciousness is dearly bought if it inhibits the intellect 
and embarrasses the inferences which, in its spontaneous 


operation, it has known perfectly how to make. In the 
heat of scientific theorizing or dialectical argument it is 
sometimes salutary to be reminded that we are men think 
ing ; but, after all, it is no news. We know that life is a 
dream, and how should thinking be more ? Yet the 
thinking must go on, and the only vital question is to 
what practical or poetic conceptions it is able to lead us. 

Such visions are necessarily fleeting, because the human 
mind has long before settled its grammar, and discovered, 
after much groping and many defeats, the general forms 
in which experience will allow itself to be stated. These 
general forms are the principles of common sense and 
positive science, no less imaginative in their origin than 
those notions which we now call transcendental, but 
grown prosaic, like the metaphors of common speech, by 
dint of repetition. 

Since the material world is an object for thought, it 
can hardly lie in the same plane of reality with the thought 
to which it appears. The spectator on this side of the 
foot-lights cannot expect to figure in the play or to see 
himself strutting among the actors on the boards. He 
listens and is served, being at once impotent and supreme. 
It has been well said that 

Only the free divine the laws, 
The causeless only know the cause. 

Conversely, what in such a transcendental sense is causeless 
and free can evidently not be causal or determinant, being 
something altogether universal and notional, without 
inherent determinations or specific affinities. The objects 
figuring in consciousness will have implications and will 
require causes ; not so the consciousness itself. The 
Ego to which all things appear equally, whatever their 
form or history, is the ground of nothing incidental : no 
specific characters or order found in the world can be 
attributed to its efficacy. The march of experience is 
not determined by the mere fact that experience exists. 
Consciousness is not itself dynamic. It is merely an 
abstract name for the actuality of its random objects. 

To subjectify the universe is not to improve it, much 
less to dissolve it. The space I call my idea has all the 



properties of the space I called my environment ; it has 
the same inevitable presence and the same perpetual 

The whole transcendental philosophy, if made ultimate, 
is false, and nothing but a private perspective. The will 
is absolute neither in the individual nor in humanity. 
Nature is not a product of the mind, but on the contrary 
there is an external world, ages prior to any idea of it, 
which the mind recognizes and feeds upon. There is a 
steady human nature within us, which our moods and 
passions may wrong but cannot annul. There is no 
categorical imperative but only the operation of instincts 
and interests more or less subject to discipline and mutual 
adjustment. Our whole life is a compromise, an incipient 
loose harmony between the passions of the soul and the 
forces of nature, forces which likewise generate and protect 
the souls of other creatures, endowing them with powers 
of expression and self-assertion comparable with our own, 
and with aims no less sweet and worthy in their own eyes ; 
so that the quick and honest mind cannot but practise 
courtesy in the universe, exercising its will without vehem 
ence or forced assurance, judging with serenity, and in 
everything discarding the word absolute as the most false 
and the most odious of words. As Montaigne observes, 
" He who sets before him, as in a picture, this vast image of 
our mother Nature in her entire majesty ; who reads in 
her aspect such universal and continual variety ; who 
discerns himself therein, and not himself only but a whole 
kingdom, to be but a most delicate dot he alone esteems 
things according to the just measure of their greatness. * 


THE most legitimate constructions of reason soon become 
merely speculative, soon pass, I mean, beyond the sphere 
of practical application ; and the man of affairs, adjusting 
himself at every turn to the opaque brutality of fact, loses 
his respect for the higher reaches of logic and forgets 


that his recognition of facts themselves is an application 
of logical principles. In his youth, perhaps, he pursued 
metaphysics, which are the love-affairs of the under 
standing ; now he is wedded to convention and seeks in 
the passion he calls business or in the habit he calls duty 
some substitute for natural happiness. He fears to question 
the value of his life, having found that such questioning 
adds nothing to his powers ; and he thinks the mariner 
would die of old age in port who should wait for reason 
to justify his voyage. Reason is indeed like the sad 
Iphigenia whom her royal father, the Will, must sacrifice 
before any wind can fill his sails. The emanation of all 
things from the One involves not only the incarnation 
but the crucifixion of the Logos. Reason must be eclipsed 
by its supposed expressions, and can only shine in a darkness 
which does not comprehend it. For reason is essentially 
hypothetical and subsidiary, and can never constitute 
what it expresses in man, nor what it recognizes in nature. 
If logic should refuse to make this initial self-sacrifice 
and to subordinate itself to impulse and fact, it would 
immediately become irrational and forfeit its own justifica 
tion. For it exists by virtue of a human impulse and in 
answer to a human need. To ask a man, in the satisfaction 
of a metaphysical passion, to forgo every other good is 
to render him fanatical and to shut his eyes daily to the 
sun in order that he may see better by the star-light. 
The radical fault of rationalism is not any incidental error 
committed in its deductions, although such necessarily 
abound in every human system. Its great original sin 
is its denial of its own basis and its refusal to occupy its 
due place in the world, an ignorant fear of being invalidated 
by its history and dishonoured, as it were, if its ancestry 
is hinted at. Only bastards should fear that fate, and 
criticism would indeed be fatal to a bastard philosophy, 
to one that does not spring from practical reason and has 
no roots in life. But those products of reason which 
arise by reflection on fact, and those spontaneous and 
demonstrable systems of ideas which can be verified in 
experience, and thus serve to render the facts calculable 
and articulate, will lose nothing of their lustre by dis 
covering their lineage. So the idea of nature remains 


true after psychology has analysed its origin, and not only 
true, but beautiful and beneficent. For unlike many 
negligible products of speculative fancy it is woven out of 
recurrent perceptions into a hypothetical cause from which 
further perceptions can be deducted as they are actually 
experienced. Such a mechanism once discovered confirms 
itself at every breath we draw, and surrounds every object 
in history and nature with infinite and true suggestions, 
making it doubly interesting, fruitful, and potent over the 

If the idealist fears and deprecates any theory of his 
own origin and function, he is only obeying the instinct 
of self-preservation ; for he knows very well that his 
past will not bear examination. He is heir to every 
superstition and by profession an apologist ; his deepest 
vocation is to rescue, by some logical tour de force, what 
spontaneously he himself would have taken for a conse 
crated error. Zeal, here as in so many cases, becomes 
the cover and evidence of a bad conscience. Bigotry and 
craft, with a rhetorical vilification of enemies, then come 
to reinforce in the prophet that natural limitation of his 
interests which turns his face away from history and criti 
cism ; until his system, in its monstrous unreality and 
disingenuousness, becomes intolerable, and provokes a 
general revolt in which too often the truth of it is buried 
with the error in a common oblivion. 


INJUSTICE in this world is not something comparative; 
the wrong is deep, clear, and absolute in each private fate. 
A bruised child wailing in the street, his small world for 
the moment utterly black and cruel before him, does not 
fetch his unhappiness from sophisticated comparisons or 
irrational envy ; nor can any compensations and celestial 
harmonies supervening later ever expunge or justify that 
moment s bitterness. The pain may be whistled away 
and forgotten ; the mind may be rendered by it only a 


little harder, a little coarser, a little more secretive and 
sullen and familiar with unrightable wrong. But ignoring 
that pain will not prevent its having existed; it must 
remain for ever to trouble God s omniscience and be a 
part of that hell which the creation too truly involves. 

If all unfortunate people could be proved to be uncon 
scious automata, what a brilliant justification that would 
be for the ways of both God and man ! Philosophy 
would not lack arguments to support such an agreeable 
conclusion. Beginning with the axiom that whatever 
is is right, a metaphysician might adduce the truth that 
consciousness is something self-existent and indubitably 
real ; therefore, he would contend, it must be self -justifying 
and indubitably good. And he might continue by saying 
that a slave s life was not its own excuse for being, nor 
were the labours of a million drudges otherwise justified 
than by the conveniences which they supplied their masters 
with. Ergo, those servile operations could come to con 
sciousness only where they attained their end, and the 
world could contain nothing but perfect and universal 
happiness. A divine omniscience and joy, shared by 
finite minds in so far as they might attain perfection, 
would be the only Hie in existence, and the notion that 
such a thing as pain, sorrow, or hatred could exist at all 
would forthwith vanish like the hideous and ridiculous 
illusion that it was. This argument may be recommended 
to apologetic writers as no weaker than those they com 
monly rely on, and infinitely more consoling. 

The value which the world has in the eyes of its inhabi 
tants is necessarily mixed, so that a sweeping optimism 
or pessimism can be only a theoretic pose, false to the 
natural sentiment even of those who assume it. Both 
are impressionistic judgments passed on the world at large, 
not perhaps without some impertinence. However good 
or however bad the universe may be, it is always worth 
while to make it better. But metaphysicians sometimes 
so define the good as to make it a matter of no importance ; 
not seldom they give that name to the sum of all evils. 



IT is an observation at first sight melancholy but in the 
end, perhaps, enlightening, that the earliest poets are 
the most ideal, and that primitive ages furnish the most 
heroic characters and have the clearest vision of a perfect 
life. The Homeric times must have been full of ignorance 
and suffering. In those little barbaric towns, in those 
camps and farms, in those shipyards, there must have 
been much insecurity and superstition. That age was 
singularly poor in all that concerns the convenience of 
life and the entertainment of the mind with arts and 
sciences. Yet it had a sense for civilization. That 
machinery of life which men were beginning to devise 
appealed to them as poetical ; they knew its ultimate 
justification and studied its incipient processes with 
delight. The poetry of that simple and ignorant age was, 
accordingly, the sweetest and sanest that the world has 
known ; the most faultless in taste, and the most even 
and lofty in inspiration. Without lacking variety and 
homeliness, it bathed all things human in the golden 
light of morning ; it clothed sorrow in a kind of majesty, 
instinct with both self-control and heroic frankness. No 
where else can we find so noble a rendering of human 
nature, so spontaneous a delight in life, so uncompromising 
a dedication to beauty, and such a gift of seeing beauty 
in everything. Homer, the first of poets, was also the 
best and the most poetical. 

From this beginning, if we look down the history of 
occidental literature, we see the power of idealization 
steadily decline. For while it finds here and there, as in 
Dante, a more spiritual theme and a subtler and riper 
intellect, it pays for that advantage by a more than equiva 
lent loss in breadth, sanity, and happy vigour. And if 
ever imagination bursts out with a greater potency, as 
in Shakespeare (who excels the patriarch of poetry in 
depth of passion and vividness of characterization, and in 
those exquisite bubblings of poetry and humour in which 


English genius is at its best), yet Shakespeare also pays 
the price by a notable loss in taste, in sustained inspiration, 
in consecration, and in rationality. There is more or less 
rubbish in his greatest works. When we come down to 
our own day we find poets of hardly less natural endow 
ment (for in endowment all ages are perhaps alike) and 
with vastly richer sources of inspiration ; for they have 
many arts and literatures behind them, with the spectacle 
of a varied and agitated society, a world which is the living 
microcosm of its own history and presents in one picture 
many races, arts, and religions. Our poets have more 
wonderful tragedies of the imagination to depict than had 
Homer, whose world was innocent of any essential defeat, 
or Dante, who believed in the world s definitive redemption. 
Or, if perhaps their inspiration is comic, they have the 
pageant of mediaeval manners, with its picturesque artifices 
and passionate fancies, and the long comedy of modern 
social revolutions, so illusory in their aims and so produc 
tive in their aimlessness. They have, moreover, the new 
and marvellous conception which natural science has given 
us of the world and of the conditions of human progress. 

With all these lessons of experience behind them, 
however, we find our contemporary poets incapable of 
any high wisdom, incapable of any imaginative rendering 
of human life and its meaning. Our poets are things of 
shreds and patches ; they give us episodes and studies, 
a sketch of this curiosity, a glimpse of that romance ; they 
have no total vision, no grasp of the whole reality, and 
consequently no capacity for a sane and steady idealization. 
This age of material elaboration has no sense for perfection. 
Its fancy is retrospective, whimsical, and flickering ; its 
ideals, when it has any, are negative and partial ; its moral 
strength is a blind and miscellaneous vehemence. Its 
poetry, in a word, is the poetry of barbarism. 

This poetry should be viewed in relation to the general 
moral crisis and imaginative disintegration of which it 
gives a verbal echo ; then we shall avoid the injustice of 
passing it over as insignificant, no less than the imbecility 
of hailing it as essentially glorious and successful. We 
must remember that the imagination of our race has been 
subject to a double discipline. It has been formed partly 


in the school of classic literature and polity, and partly 
in the school of Christian piety. This duality of inspira 
tion, this contradiction between the two accepted methods 
of rationalizing the world, has been a chief source of that 
incoherence, that romantic indistinctness and imperfection, 
which largely characterize the products of the modern arts. 
A man cannot serve two masters ; yet the conditions 
have not been such as to allow him wholly to despise the 
one or wholly to obey the other. To be wholly pagan 
is impossible after the dissolution of that civilization which 
had seemed universal, and that empire which had believed 
itself eternal. To be wholly Christian is impossible for 
a similar reason, now that the illusion and cohesion of 
Christian ages is lost, and for the further reason that 
Christianity was itself fundamentally eclectic. Before it 
could succeed and dominate men even for a time, it was 
obliged to adjust itself to reality, to incorporate many 
elements of pagan wisdom, and to accommodate itself to 
many habits and passions at variance with its own ideal. 

In these latter times, with the prodigious growth of 
material life in elaboration and of mental life in diffusion, 
there has supervened upon this old dualism a new faith 
in man s absolute power, a kind of return to the inexperi 
ence and self-assurance of youth. This new inspiration 
has made many minds indifferent to the two traditional 
disciplines ; neither is seriously accepted by them, for 
the reason, excellent from their own point of view, that 
no discipline whatever is needed. The memory of ancient 
disillusions has faded with time. Ignorance of the past 
has bred contempt for the lessons which the past might 
teach. Men prefer to repeat the old experiment without 
knowing that they repeat it. 


So long as happiness is conceived as a poet might 
conceive it, namely, in its immediately sensuous and 
emotional factors, so long as we live in the moment and 


make our happiness consist in the simplest things, in 
breathing, seeing, hearing, loving, and sleeping, our 
happiness has the same substance, the same elements, as our 
aesthetic delight, for it is aesthetic delight that makes our 
happiness. Yet poets and artists, with their immediate 
and aesthetic joys, are not thought to be happy men ; 
they themselves are apt to be loud in their lamentations, 
and to regard themselves as eminently and tragically 
unhappy. This arises from the intensity and inconstancy 
of their emotions, from their improvidence, and from the 
eccentricity of their social habits. While among them the 
sensuous and vital functions have the upper hand, the 
gregarious and social instincts are subordinated and often 
deranged ; and their unhappiness consists in the sense of 
their unfitness to live in the world into which they are 

But man is pre-eminently a political animal, and social 
needs are almost as fundamental in him as vital functions, 
and often more conscious. Friendship, wealth, reputation, 
power, and influence, when added to family life, constitute 
surely the main elements of happiness. Now these are 
only very partially composed of definite images. The 
desire for them, the consciousness of their absence or 
possession, comes upon us only when we reflect, when we 
are planning, considering the future, gathering the words 
of others, rehearsing their scorn or admiration for ourselves, 
conceiving possible situations in which our virtue, our 
fame or power would become conspicuous, comparing our 
lot with that of others, and going through other discursive 
processes of thought. If artists and poets are unhappy, 
it is after all because happiness does not interest them. 
They cannot seriously pursue it, because its components 
are not components of beauty, and being in love with beauty, 
they neglect and despise those unaesthetic social virtues 
in the operation of which happiness is found. On the 
other hand those who pursue happiness conceived merely 
in abstract and conventional terms, as money, success, or 
respectability, often miss that real and fundamental 
part of happiness which flows from the senses and imagina 
tion. This element is what the love of beauty can add 
to life ; for beauty can also be a cause and a factor of 


happiness. Yet the happiness of loving beauty is either 
too sensuous to be stable, or else too ultimate, too sacra 
mental, to be accounted happiness by the worldly mind. 


EVERY Italian of culture in the days of the Renaissance 
was in the habit of addressing little pieces to his friends, 
and of casting his thoughts or his prayers into the mould 
of a sonnet or a madrigal. Verse has a greater naturalness 
and a wider range among the Latin peoples than among 
the English ; poetry and prose are less differentiated. 
In French, Italian, and Spanish, as in Latin itself, elegance 
and neatness of expression suffice for verse. The reader 
passes without any sense of incongruity or anti-climax 
from passion to reflection, from sentiment to satire, from 
flights of fancy to homely details : the whole has a certain 
human sincerity and intelligibility which weld it together. 
As the Latin languages are not composed of two diverse 
elements, as English is of Latin and German, so the Latin 
mind does not have two spheres of sentiment, one vulgar 
and the other sublime. All changes are variations on a 
single key, which is the key of intelligence. We must not 
be surprised, therefore, to find now a message to a friend, 
now an artistic maxim, now a bit of dialectic, and now a 
confession of sin, taking the form of verse and filling out 
the fourteen lines of a sonnet. On the contrary, we must 
look to these familiar compositions for the most genuine 
evidence of a man s daily thoughts. 


DANTE, gifted with the tenderest sense of colour, and the 
firmest art of design, has put his whole world into his 
canvas. Seen there, that world becomes complete, clear, 

DANTE 187 

beautiful, and tragic. It is vivid and truthful in its detail, 
sublime in its march and in its harmony. This is not 
poetry where the parts are better than the whole. Here, 
as in some great symphony, everything is cumulative : 
the movements conspire, the tension grows, the volume 
redoubles, the keen melody soars higher and higher ; 
and it all ends, not with a bang, not with some casual 
incident, but in sustained reflection, in the sense that it 
has not ended, but remains by us in its totality, a revela 
tion and a resource for ever. It has taught us to love and 
to renounce, to judge and to worship. What more could 
a poet do ? Dante poetized all life and nature as he found 
them His imagination dominated and focussed the whole 
world. He thereby touched the ultimate goal to which 
a poet can aspire ; he set the standard for all possible 
performance, and became the type of a supreme poet. 
This is not to say that he is the " greatest " of poets. The 
relative merit of poets is a barren thing to wrangle about. 
The question can always be opened anew, when a critic 
appears with a fresh temperament or a new criterion. 
Even less need we say that no greater poet can ever arise ; 
we may be confident of the opposite. But Dante gives a 
successful example of the highest species of poetry. His 
poetry covers the whole field from which poetry may be 
fetched, and to which poetry may be applied, from the 
inmost recesses of the heart to the uttermost bounds of 
nature and of destiny., If to give imaginative value to 
something is the minimum task of a poet, to give imagina 
tive value to all things, and to the system which things 
compose, is evidently his greatest task. 

Dante fulfilled this task, of course under special con 
ditions and limitations, personal and social ; but he 
fulfilled it, and he thereby fulfilled the conditions of 
supreme poetry., Even Homer, as we are beginning to 
perceive nowadays, suffered from a certain conventionality 
and one-sidedness. There was much in the life and religion 
of his time that his art ignored. It was a flattering, a 
euphemistic art ; it had a sort of pervasive blandness, 
like that which we now associate with a fashionable sermon. 
It was poetry addressed to the ruling caste in the state, to 
the conquerors ; and it spread an intentional glamour over 


their past brutalities and present self-deceptions. No 
such partiality in Dante ; he paints what he hates as 
frankly as what he loves, and in all things he is complete 
and sincere. Yet if any similar adequacy is attained again 
by any poet, it will not be, presumably, by a poet of the 
supernatural. Henceforth, for any wide and honest 
imagination, the supernatural must figure as an idea in 
the human mind, a part of the natural. To conceive 
it otherwise would be to fall short of the insight of this age, 
not to express or to complete it. Dante, however, for this 
very reason, may be expected to remain the supreme poet 
of the supernatural, the unrivalled exponent, after Plato, 
of that phase of thought and feeling in which the super 
natural seems to be the key to nature and to happiness. 
This is the hypothesis on which, as yet, moral unity has 
been best attained in this world. Here, then, we have the 
most complete idealization and comprehension of things 
achieved by mankind hitherto. Dante is the type of a 
consummate poet. 


SHAKESPEARE could be idealistic when he dreamed, as he 
could be spiritual when he reflected. The spectacle of life 
did not pass before his eyes as a mere phantasmagoria. 
He seized upon its principles ; he became wise. Nothing 
can exceed the ripeness of his seasoned judgment, or the 
occasional breadth, sadness, and terseness of his reflection. 
The author of Hamlet could not be without metaphysical 
aptitude ; Macbeth could not have been written without 
a sort of sibylline inspiration, or the Sonnets without 
something of the Platonic mind. It is all the more 
remarkable, therefore, that we should have to search 
through all the works of Shakespeare to find half-a-dozen 
passages that have so much as a religious sound, and that 
even these passages, upon examination, should prove not 
to be the expression of any deep religious conception. 
If Shakespeare had been without metaphysical capacity, 


or without moral maturity, we could have explained his 
strange insensibility to religion ; but as it is, we must 
marvel at his indifference and ask ourselves what can be 
the causes of it. For, even if we should not regard the 
absence of religion as an imperfection in his own thought, 
we must admit it to be an incompleteness in his portrayal 
of the thought of others. Positivism may be a virtue in 
a philosopher, but it is a vice in a dramatist, who has 
to render those human passions to which the religious 
imagination has always given a larger meaning and a 
greater depth. 

Those poets by whose side we are accustomed to put 
Shakespeare did not forgo this advantage. They gave us 
man with his piety and the world with its gods. Homer 
is the chief repository of the Greek religion, and Dante the 
faithful interpreter of the Catholic. Nature would have 
been inconceivable to them without the supernatural, 
or man without the influence and companionship of the 
gods. These poets live in a cosmos. In their minds, as 
in the mind of their age, the fragments of experience have 
fallen together into a perfect picture, like the bits of glass 
in a kaleidoscope. Their universe is a total. Reason and 
imagination have mastered it completely and peopled it. 
No chaos remains beyond, or, if it does, it is thought of 
with an involuntary shudder that soon passes into a healthy 
indifference. They have a theory of human life ; they 
see man in his relations, surrounded by a kindred universe 
in which he fills his allotted place. He knows the meaning 
and issue of his life, and does not voyage without a 

Shakespeare s world, on the contrary, is only the world 
of human society. The cosmos eludes him ; he does not 
seem to feel the need of framing that idea. He depicts 
human life in all its richness and variety, but leaves that 
life without a setting, and consequently without a meaning. 
If we asked him to tell us what is the significance of the 
passion and beauty he had so vividly displayed, and what 
is the outcome of it all, he could hardly answer in any 
other words than those he puts into the mouth of 
Macbeth : 


" To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, 
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, 
To the last syllable of recorded time ; 
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools 
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle ! 
Life s but a walking shadow, a poor player 
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage 
And then is heard no more : it is a tale 
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, 
Signifying nothing." 

How differently would Homer or Dante have answered 
that question ! Their tragedy would have been illumined 
by a sense of the divinity of life and beauty, or by a sense 
of the sanctity of suffering and death. Their faith had 
enveloped the world of experience in a world of imagination, 
in which the ideals of the reason, of the fancy, and of the 
heart had a natural expression. They had caught in the 
reality the hint of a lovelier fable, a fable in which that 
reality was completed and idealized, and made at once 
vaster in its extent and more intelligible in its principle. 
They had, as it were, dramatized the universe, and endowed 
it with the tragic unities. In contrast with such a luminous 
philosophy and so well-digested an experience, the silence 
of Shakespeare and his philosophical incoherence have 
something in them that is still heathen ; something that 
makes us wonder whether the northern mind, even in him, 
did not remain morose and barbarous at its inmost core. 


NOTHING is further from the common people than the 
corrupt desire to be primitive. They instinctively look 
toward a more exalted life, which they imagine to be full 
of distinction and pleasure, and the idea of that brighter 
existence fills them with hope or with envy or with humble 
admiration. But a barbarous ideal requires tasks and 
dangers incompatible with happiness ; a rude and oppressed 
conscience is incapable of regarding as good a state which 
excludes its own acrid satisfactions. 

The purpose of education is to free us from these 


prejudices. For the barbarian is the man who regards his 
passions as their own excuse for being ; who does not 
domesticate them either by understanding their cause or 
by conceiving their ideal goal. He is the man who does 
not know his derivations nor perceive his tendencies, but 
who merely feels and acts, valuing in his life its force and 
its filling, but being careless of its purpose and its form. 
His delight is in abundance and vehemence ; his art, like his 
life, shows an exclusive respect for quantity and splendour 
of materials. His scorn for what is poorer and weaker than 
himself is only surpassed by his ignorance of what is higher. 
To frame solid ideals, which would, in fact, be better 
than actual things, is not granted to the merely irritable 
poet ; it is granted only to the master- workman, to the 
modeller of some given substance to some given use 
things which define his aspiration, and separate what is 
relevant and glorious in his dreams from that large part 
of them which is merely ignorant and peevish. In 
romantic drama, accidents make the meaningless happiness 
or unhappiness of a supersensitive adventurer. Chivalry 
is a fine emblazoning of the original manly impulse to fight 
every man and love every woman. Something drives the 
youth afield, into solitude, into alien friendships ; only in 
the face of nature and an indifferent world can he become 
himself. Such a flight from home and all its pieties grows 
more urgent when there is some real conflict of temper or 
conscience between the young man and what is established 
in his family ; and this happens often because, after all, 
the most beneficent conventions are but mechanisms 
which must ignore the nicer sensibilities and divergences 
of living souls. Common men accept these spiritual 
tyrannies, weak men repine at them, and great men break 
them down. 


THE picture of life as an eternal war for illusory ends 
was drawn at first by satirists, unhappily with too 
much justification in the facts. Some grosser minds, too 


undisciplined to have ever pursued a good either truly 
attainable or truly satisfactory, then proceeded to mistake 
that satire on human folly for a sober account of the whole 
universe ; and finally others were not ashamed to represent 
it as the ideal itself so soon is the dyer s hand subdued 
to what it works in. A barbarous mind cannot conceive 
life, like health, as a harmony continually preserved or 
restored, and containing those natural and ideal activities 
which disease merely interrupts. Such a mind, never 
having tasted order, cannot conceive it, and identifies 
progress with new conflicts and life with continual death. 
Its deification of unreason, instability, and strife comes 
partly from piety and partly from inexperience. There is 
piety in saluting nature in her perpetual flux and in thinking 
that since no equilibrium is maintained for ever none, 
perhaps, deserves to be. There is inexperience in not 
considering that wherever interests and judgments exist, 
the natural flux has fallen, so to speak, into a vortex, and 
created a natural good, a cumulative life, and an ideal 
purpose. Art, science, government, human nature itself, 
are self-defining and self-preserving : by partly fixing a 
structure they fix an ideal. But the barbarian can hardly 
regard such things, for to have distinguished and fostered 
them would be to have founded a civilization. 

To confuse means with ends and mistake disorder for 
vitality is not unnatural to minds that hear the hum of 
mighty workings but can imagine neither the cause nor 
the fruits of that portentous commotion. All functions, 
in such chaotic lives, seem instrumental functions. It is 
then supposed that what serves no further purpose can 
have no value, and that he who suffers no effuscation can 
have no feeling and no life. To attain an ideal seems to 
destroy its worth. Moral life, at that low level, is a 
fantastic game only, not having come in sight of humane 
and liberal interests. The barbarian s intensity is without 
seriousness and his passion without joy. His philosophy, 
which means to glorify all experience and to digest all vice, 
is in truth an expression of pathetic innocence. It betrays 
a rudimentary impulse to follow every beckoning hand, to 
assume that no adventure and no bewitchment can be any 
thing but glorious. Such an attitude is intelligible in one 


who has never seen anything worth seeing nor loved anything 
worth loving. Immaturity could go no further than to 
acknowledge no limits denning will and happiness. When 
such limits, however, are gradually discovered and an 
authoritative ideal is born of the marriage of human nature 
with experience, happiness becomes at once definite and 
attainable ; for adjustment is possible to a world that has 
a fruitful and intelligible structure. 

Such incoherences, which might well arise in ages without 
traditions, may be preserved and fostered by superstition. 
Perpetual servile employments and subjection to an 
irrational society may render people incapable even of 
conceiving a liberal life. They may come to think their 
happiness no longer separable from their misery and to fear 
the large emptiness, as they deem it, of a happy world. 
Like the prisoner of Chillon, after so long a captivity, they 
would regain their freedom with a sigh. The wholesome 
influences of nature, however, would soon revive their 
wills, contorted by unnatural oppression, and a vision of 
perfection would arise within them upon breathing a purer 
air. Freedom and perfection are synonymous with life. 
The peace they bring is one 

whose names are also rapture, power, 
Clear sight, and love ; for these are parts of peace. 


THE romantic poet is a novelist in verse. He is a philo 
sopher of experience as it comes to the individual ; the 
philosopher of life, as action, memory, or soliloquy may 
put life before each of us in turn. Now the zest of 
romanticism consists in taking what you know is an inde 
pendent and ancient world as if it were material for your 
private emotions. The savage or the animal, who should 
not be aware of nature or history at all, could not be 
romantic about them, nor about himself. He would be 
blandly idiotic, and take everything quite unsuspectingly 



for what it was in him. The romanticist, then, should be 
a civilized man, so that his primitiveness and egotism may 
have something paradoxical and conscious about them ; 
and so that his life may contain a rich experience, and his 
reflection may play with all varieties of sentiment and 
thought. At the same time, in his inmost genius, he should 
be a barbarian, a child, a transcendentalist, so that his life 
may seem to him absolutely fresh, self-determined, un 
foreseen, and unforeseeable. It is part of his inspiration 
to believe that he creates a new heaven and a new earth 
with each revolution in his moods or in his purposes. He 
ignores, or seeks to ignore, all the conditions of life, until 
perhaps by living he personally discovers them. Like 
Faust, he flouts science, and is minded to make trial of 
magic, which renders a man s will master of the universe 
in which he seems to live. He disowns all authority, save 
that mysteriously exercised over him by his deep faith 
in himself. He is always honest and brave ; but he is 
always different, and absolves himself from his past as 
soon as he has outgrown or forgotten it. He is inclined to 
be wayward and foolhardy, justifying himself on the ground 
that all experience is interesting, that the springs of it are 
inexhaustible and always pure, and that the future of his 
soul is infinite. In the romantic hero the civilized man 
and the barbarian must be combined ; he should be the 
heir to all civilization, and, nevertheless, he should take 
life arrogantly and egotistically, as if it were an absolute 
personal experiment. 

The great merit of the romantic attitude in poetry, and 
of the transcendental method in philosophy, is that they 
put us back at the beginning of our experience. They 
disintegrate convention, which is often cumbrous and 
confused, and restore us to ourselves, to immediate per 
ception and primordial will. That, as it would seem, is 
the true and inevitable starting-point. Had we not been 
born, had we not peeped into this world, each out of his 
personal eggshell, this world might indeed have existed 
without us, as a thousand undiscoverable worlds may now 
exist ; but for us it would not have existed. This obvious 
truth would not need to be insisted on but for two reasons : 
one that conventional knowledge, such as our notions of 


science and morality afford, is often top-heavy ; it asserts 
and imposes on us much more than our experience warrants, 
our experience, which is our only approach to reality. 
The other reason is the reverse or counterpart of this ; for 
conventional knowledge often ignores and seems to suppress 
parts of experience no less actual and important for us 
than those parts on which the conventional knowledge itself 
is reared. The public world is too narrow for the soul, 
as well as too mythical and fabulous. Hence the double 
critical labour and reawakening which romantic reflection 
is good for, to cut off the dead branches and feed the 
starving shoots. This philosophy, as Kant said, is a 
cathartic : it is purgative and liberating ; it is intended to 
make us start afresh and start right. 

It follows that one who has no sympathy with such a 
philosophy is a comparatively conventional person. He 
has a second-hand mind. It follows, also, however, that 
one who has no philosophy but this has no wisdom ; he 
can say nothing that is worth carrying away ; everything 
in him is attitude and nothing is achievement. Words of 
wisdom diversify this career of folly, as exquisite scenes 
fill this tortuous and overloaded drama. The mind has 
become free and sincere, but it has remained bewildered. 

The literary merits of romanticism correspond accurately 
with its philosophical excellences. In the prologue to 
Faust, Goethe has described them ; much scenery, much 
wisdom, some folly, great wealth of incident and character 
ization ; and behind, the soul of a poet singing with all 
sincerity and fervour the visions of his life. Here is 
profundity, inwardness, honesty, waywardness ; here are 
the most touching accents of nature, and the most varied 
assortment of curious lore and grotesque fancies. This 
work, says Goethe, is like human life : it has a beginning, 
it has an end ; but it has no totality, it is not one whole. 
How, indeed, should we draw the sum of an infinite 
experience that is without conditions to determine it, and 
without goals in which it terminates ? Evidently all a poet 
of pure experience can do is to represent some snatches of 
it, more or less prolonged ; and the more prolonged the 
experience represented is the more it will be a collection of 
snatches, and the less the last part of it will have to do with 


the beginning. Any character which we may attribute to 
the whole of what we have surveyed would fail to dominate 
it, if that whole had been larger, and if we had had memory 
or foresight enough to include other parts of experience 
differing altogether in kind from the episodes we happen 
to have lived through. To be miscellaneous, to be in 
definite, to be unfinished, is essential to the romantic life. 
May we not say that it is essential to all life, in its im 
mediacy ; and that only in reference to what is not life 
to objects, ideals, and unanimities that cannot be ex 
perienced but may only be conceived can life become 
rational and truly progressive ? Herein we may see the 
radical and inalienable excellence of romanticism ; its 
sincerity, freedom, richness, and infinity. Herein, too, 
we may see its limitations, in that it cannot fix or trust any 
of its ideals, and blindly believes the universe to be as 
wayward as itself, so that nature and art are always 
slipping through its fingers. It is obstinately empirical, 
and will never learn anything from experience. 


WE should expect Faust, who had lain in the lap of absolute 
beauty, to understand its nature. We should expect him, 
in eager search after perfection, to establish his state on 
the distinction between the better and the worse, a 
distinction never to be abolished or obscured for one who 
has loved beauty. In other words, he might have estab 
lished a moral society, founding it on great renunciations 
and on enlightened heroisms, so that the highest beauty 
might really come down and dwell within that city. But 
we find nothing of the sort. Faust founds his kingdom 
because he must do something ; and his only ideal of what 
he hopes to secure for his subjects is that they shall always 
have something to do. Thus the will to live, in Faust, is 
not in the least educated by his experience. It changes 
its objects because it must ; the passions of youth yield to 
those of age ; and among all the illusions of his life the 
most fatuous is the illusion of progress. 


It is characteristic of the absolute romantic spirit 
that when it has finished with something it must invent a 
new interest. It beats the bush for fresh game ; it is 
always on the verge of being utterly bored. So now that 
Helen is flown, Mephistopheles must come to the rescue, 
like an amiable nurse, and propose all sorts of pastimes. 
Frankfort, Leipzig, Paris, Versailles, are described, with 
the entertainments that life there might afford ; but Faust, 
who was always difficile, has been rendered more so by 
his recent splendid adventures. However, a new impulse 
suddenly arises in his breast. From the mountain-top to 
which Helen s mantle has borne him, he can see the German 
Ocean, with its tides daily covering great stretches of the 
flat shore, and rendering them brackish and uninhabitable. 
It would be a fine thing to reclaim those wastes, to plant 
there a prosperous population. After Greece, Faust has a 
vision of Holland. 

This last ambition of Faust s is as romantic as the others. 
He feels the prompting towards political art, as he had felt 
the prompting towards love or beauty. The notion of 
transforming things by his will, of leaving for ages his 
mark upon nature and upon human society, fascinates 
him ; but this passion for activity and power, which some 
simple-minded commentators dignify with the name of 
altruism and of living for others, has no steady purpose 
or standard about it. Goethe is especially lavish in details 
to prove this point. Magic, the exercise of an unteachable 
will, is still Faust s instrument. Mephistopheles, by various 
arts of illusion, secures the triumph of the emperor in 
a desperate war which he is carrying on against a justifi 
able insurrection. As a reward for the aid rendered, 
Faust receives the shore marches in fief. The necessary 
dykes and canals are built by magic ; the spirits that 
Mephistopheles commands dig and build them with 
strange incantations. The commerce that springs up is 
also illegitimate : piracy is involved in it. 

Nor is this all. On some sand-dunes that diversified 
the original beach, an old man and his wife, Philemon and 
Baucis, lived before the advent of Faust and his improve 
ments. On the hillock, besides their cottage, there stood 
a small chapel, with a bell which disturbed Faust in his 


newly built palace, partly by its importunate sound, 
partly by its Christian suggestions, and partly by reminding 
him that he was not master of the country altogether, 
and that something existed in it not the product of his 
magical will. The old people would not sell out ; and in 
a fit of impatience Faust orders that they should be evicted 
by force, and transferred to a better dwelling elsewhere. 
Mephistopheles and his minions execute these orders 
somewhat roughly : the cottage and chapel are set on fire, 
and Philemon and Baucis are consumed in the flames, or 
buried in the ruins. 

Faust regrets this accident ; but it is one of those 
inevitable developments of action which a brave man 
must face, and forget as soon as possible. He had regretted 
in the same way the unhappiness of Gretchen, and, pre 
sumably, the death of Euphorion ; but such is romantic 
life. His will, though shaken, is not extinguished by such 
misadventures. He would continue, if life could last, 
doing things that, in some respect, he would be obliged 
to regret : but he would banish that regret easily, in the 
pursuit of some new interest, and, on the whole, he would 
not regret having been obliged to regret them. Otherwise, 
he would not have shared the whole experience of mankind, 
but missed the important experience of self-accusation and 
of self-recovery. 

It is impossible to suppose that the citizens he is establish 
ing behind leaky dykes, so that they may always have 
something to keep them busy, would have given him 
unmixed satisfaction if he could really have foreseen their 
career in its concrete details. Holland is an interesting 
country, but hardly a spectacle which would long entrance 
an idealist like Faust, so exacting that he has found the 
arts and sciences wholly vain, domesticity impossible, and 
kitchens and beer-cellars beneath consideration. The 
career of Faust himself had been far more free and active 
than that of his industrious burghers could ever hope to be. 
His interest in establishing them is a masterful, irresponsible 
interest. It is one more arbitrary passion, one more 
selfish illusion. As he had no conscience in his love, and 
sought and secured nobody s happiness, so he has no 
conscience in his ambition and in his political architecture ; 


but if only his will is done, he does not ask whether, judged 
by its fruits, it will be worth doing. As his immense 
dejection at the beginning, when he was a doctor in 
his laboratory, was not founded on any real misfortune, 
but on restlessness and a vague infinite ambition, so his 
ultimate satisfaction in his work is not founded on any 
good done, but on a passionate wilfulness. He calls the 
things he wants for others good, because he now wants to 
bestow it on them, not because they naturally want it for 
themselves. Incapable of sympathy, he has a momentary 
pleasure in policy ; and in the last and " highest " ex 
pression of his will, in his statesmanship and supposed public 
spirit, he remains romantic and, if need be, aggressive and 


IF we ask ourselves what was Emerson s relation to the 
scientific and religious movements of his time, and what 
place he may claim in the history of opinion, we must 
answer that he belonged very little to the past, very little 
to the present, and almost wholly to that abstract sphere 
into which mystical or philosophic aspiration has carried a 
few men in all ages. The religious tradition in which he 
was reared was that of Puritanism, but of a Puritanism 
which, retaining its moral intensity and metaphysical 
abstraction, had minimized its doctrinal expression and 
become Unitarian. Emerson was indeed the Psyche of 
Puritanism, " the latest-born and fairest vision far " of 
all that " faded hierarchy." A Puritan whose religion 
was all poetry, a poet whose only pleasure was thought, 
he showed in his life and personality the meagreness, the 
constraint, the frigid and conscious consecration which 
belonged to his clerical ancestors, while his inmost im 
personal spirit ranged abroad over the fields of history 
and nature, gathering what ideas it might, and singing its 
little snatches of inspired song. 

The traditional element was thus rather an external and 
inessential contribution to Emerson s mind ; he had the 


professional tinge, the decorum, the distinction of an old- 
fashioned divine ; he had also the habit of writing sermons, 
and he had the national pride and hope of a religious people 
that felt itself providentially chosen to establish a free 
and godly commonwealth in a new world. For the rest, 
he separated himself from the ancient creed of the com 
munity with a sense rather of relief than of regret. A 
literal belief in Christian doctrines repelled him as un- 
spiritual, as manifesting no understanding of the meaning 
which, as allegories, those doctrines might have to a 
philosophic and poetical spirit. Although, being a clergy 
man, he was at first in the habit of referring to the Bible 
and its lessons as to a supreme authority, he had no 
instinctive sympathy with the inspiration of either the 
Old or the New Testament ; in Hafiz or Plutarch, in Plato 
or Shakespeare, he found more congenial stuff. 

While he thus preferred to withdraw, without rancour 
and without contempt, from the ancient fellowship of the 
church, he assumed an attitude hardly less cool and 
deprecatory toward the enthusiasms of the new era. 
The national ideal of democracy and freedom had his entire 
sympathy ; he allowed himself to be drawn into the 
movement against slavery ; he took a curious and smiling 
interest in the discoveries of natural science and in the 
material progress of the age. But he could go no further. 
His contemplative nature, his religious training, his 
dispersed reading, made him stand aside from the life of 
the world, even while he studied it with benevolent atten 
tion. His heart was fixed on eternal things, and he was 
in no sense a prophet for his age or country. He belonged 
by nature to that mystical company of devout souls that 
recognize no particular home and are dispersed throughout 
history, although not without intercommunication. He 
felt his affinity to the Hindoos and the Persians, to the 
Platonists and the Stoics. Yet he was a shrewd Yankee, 
by instinct on the winning side ; he was a cheery, child-like 
soul, impervious to the evidence of evil, as of everything 
that it did not suit his transcendental individuality to 
appreciate or to notice. More, perhaps, than anybody 
that has ever lived, he practised the transcendental method 
in all its purity. He had no system. He opened his eyes 


on the world every morning with a fresh sincerity, marking 
how things seemed to him then, or what they suggested to 
his spontaneous fancy. This fancy, for being spontaneous, 
was not always novel ; it was guided by the habits and 
training of his mind, which were those of a preacher. 
Yet he never insisted on his notions so as to turn them into 
settled dogmas ; he felt in his bones that they were myths. 
Sometimes, indeed, the bad example of other transcenden- 
talists, less true than he to their method, or the pressing 
questions of unintelligent people, or the instinct we all 
have to think our ideas final, led him to the very verge 
of system-making ; but he stopped short. Had he made 
a system out of his notion of compensation, or the over-soul, 
or spiritual laws, the result would have been as thin and 
forced as it is in other transcendental systems. But he 
coveted truth ; and he returned to experience, to history, 
to poetry, to the natural science of his day, for new starting- 
points and hints toward fresh transcendental musings. 

To covet truth is a very distinguished passion. Every 
philosopher says he is pursuing the truth, but this is seldom 
the case. As a philosopher has observed, one reason why 
philosophers often fail to reach the truth is that often they 
do not desire to reach it. Those who are genuinely con 
cerned in discovering what happens to be true are rather 
the men of science, the naturalists, the historians ; and 
ordinarily they discover it, according to their lights. The 
truths they find are never complete, and are not always 
important ; but they are integral parts of the truth, facts 
and circumstances that help to fill in the picture, and that 
no later interpretation can invalidate or afford to con 
tradict. But professional philosophers are usually only 
apologists : that is, they are absorbed in defending some 
vested illusion or some eloquent idea. Like lawyers or 
detectives, they study the case for which they are retained, 
to see how much evidence or semblance of evidence they 
can gather for the defence, and how much prejudice they 
can raise against the witnesses for the prosecution ; for 
they know they are defending prisoners suspected by the 
world, and perhaps by their own good sense, of falsification. 
They do not covet truth, but victory and the dispelling of 
their own doubts. What they defend is some system, 


that is, some view about the totality of things, of which 
men are actually ignorant. No system would have ever 
been framed if people had been simply interested in knowing 
what is true, whatever it may be. What produces systems 
is the interest in maintaining against all comers that some 
favourite or inherited idea of ours is sufficient and right. 
A system may contain an account of many things which, 
in detail, are true enough ; but as a system, covering 
infinite possibilities that neither our experience nor our 
logic can prejudge, it must be a work of imagination and 
a piece of human soliloquy. It may be expressive of 
human experience, it may be poetical ; but how should 
any one who really coveted truth suppose that it was 
true ? 

Emerson had no system ; and his coveting truth had 
another exceptional consequence ; he was detached, 
unworldly, contemplative. When he came out of the 
conventicle or the reform meeting, or out of the rapturous 
close atmosphere of the lecture-room, he heard nature 
whispering to him : " Why so hot, little sir ? " No doubt 
the spirit or energy of the world is what is acting in us, 
as the sea is what rises in every little wave ; but it passes 
through us, and cry out as we may, it will move on. Our 
privilege is to have perceived it as it moves. Our dignity 
is not in what we do, but in what we understand. The 
whole world is doing things. We are turning in that 
vortex ; yet within us is silent observation, the specu 
lative eye before which all passes, which bridges the 
distances and compares the combatants. On this side 
of his genius Emerson broke away from all conditions of 
age or country and represented nothing except intelligence 

There was another element in Emerson, curiously 
combined with transcendentalism, namely, his love and 
respect for nature. Nature, for the transcendentalist, 
is precious because it is his own work, a mirror in which 
he looks at himself and says (like a poet relishing his own 
verses), " What a genius I am ! Who would have thought 
there was such stuff in me ? " And the philosophical 
egotist finds in his doctrine a ready explanation of what 
ever beauty and commodity nature actually has. No 


wonder, he says to himself, that nature is sympathetic, 
since I made it. And such a view, one-sided and even 
fatuous as it may be, undoubtedly sharpens the vision of 
a poet and a moralist to all that is inspiriting and symbolic 
in the natural world. Emerson was particularly ingenious 
and clear-sighted in feeling the spiritual uses of fellowship 
with the elements. This is something in which all Teutonic 
poetry is rich and which forms, I think, the most genuine 
and spontaneous part of modern taste, and especially of 
American taste. Just as some people are naturally 
enthralled and refreshed by music, so others are by 
landscape. Music and landscape make up the spiritual 
resources of those who cannot or dare not express their 
unfulfilled ideals in words. Serious poetry, profound 
religion (Calvinism, for instance), are the joys of an un- 
happiness that confesses itself ; but when a genteel 
tradition forbids people to confess that they are unhappy, 
serious poetry and profound religion are closed to them by 
that ; and since human life, in its depths, cannot then 
express itself openly, imagination is driven for comfort 
into abstract arts, where human circumstances are lost 
sight of, and human problems dissolve in a purer medium. 
The pressure of care is thus relieved, without its quietus 
being found in intelligence. To understand oneself is the 
classic form of consolation ; to elude oneself is the romantic. 
In the presence of music or landscape human experience 
eludes itself ; and thus romanticism is the bond between 
transcendental and naturalistic sentiment. The winds 
and clouds come to minister to the solitary ego. 


SHELLEY seems hardly to have been brought up ; he 
grew up in the nursery among his young sisters, at school 
among the rude boys, without any affectionate guidance, 
without imbibing any religious or social tradition. If 
he received any formal training or correction, he instantly 
rejected it inwardly, set it down as unjust and absurd, 


and turned instead to sailing paper boats, to reading 
romances or to writing them, or to watching with delight 
the magic of chemical experiments. Thus the mind of 
Shelley was thoroughly disinherited ; but not, like the 
minds of most revolutionists, by accident and through 
the niggardliness of fortune, for few revolutionists would 
be such if they were heirs to a baronetcy. Shelley s mind 
disinherited itself out of allegiance to itself, because it 
was too sensitive and too highly endowed for the world 
into which it had descended. It rejected ordinary educa 
tion, because it was incapable of assimilating it. Educa 
tion is suitable to those few animals whose faculties are 
not completely innate, animals that, like most men, may 
be perfected by experience because they are born with 
various imperfect alternative instincts rooted equally in 
their system. But most animals, and a few men, are not 
of this sort. They cannot be educated, because they are 
born complete. Full of predeterminate intuitions, they 
are without intelligence, which is the power of seeing 
things as they are. Endowed with a specific, unshakable 
faith, they are impervious to experience : and as they 
burst the womb they bring ready-made with them their 
final and only possible system of philosophy. 

Love of the ideal, passionate apprehension of what 
ought to be, has for its necessary counterpart condemna 
tion of the actual, wherever the actual does not conform to 
that ideal. The spontaneous soul, the soul of the child, 
is naturally revolutionary ; and when the revolution fails, 
the soul of the youth becomes naturally pessimistic. All 
moral life and moral judgment have this deeply romantic 
character ; they venture to assert a private ideal in the 
face of an intractable and omnipotent world. Some 
moralists begin by feeling the attraction of untasted and 
ideal perfection. These, like Plato, excel in elevation, 
and they are apt to despise rather than to reform the 
world. Other moralists begin by a revolt against the 
actual, at some point where they find the actual par 
ticularly galling. These excel in sincerity; their pur 
blind conscience is urgent, and they are reformers in 
intent and sometimes even in action. But the ideals 
they frame are fragmentary and shallow, often mere 


provisional vague watchwords, like liberty, equality, and 
fraternity ; they possess no positive visions or plans 
for moral life as a whole, like Plato s Republic. 

Shelley was one of these spokesmen of the a priori, one 
of these nurslings of the womb, like a bee or a butterfly ; 
a dogmatic, inspired, perfect, and incorrigible creature. 
He was innocent and cruel, swift and wayward, illuminated 
and blind. Being a finished child of nature, not a joint 
product, like most of us, of nature, history, and society, 
he abounded miraculously in his own clear sense, but was 
obtuse to the droll, miscellaneous lessons of fortune. 
The cannonade of hard, inexplicable facts that knocks 
into most of us what little wisdom we have left Shelley 
dazed and sore, perhaps, but uninstructed. When the 
storm was over, he began chirping again his own natural 
note. If the world continued to confine and beset him, 
he hated the world, and gasped for freedom. Being 
incapable of understanding reality, he revelled in creating 
world after world in idea. For his nature was not merely 
predetermined and obdurate, it was also sensitive, vehe 
ment, and fertile. With the soul of a bird, he had the 
senses of a man-child ; the instinct of the butterfly was 
united in him with the instinct of the brooding fowl and 
of the pelican. This winged spirit had a heart. It darted 
swiftly on its appointed course, neither expecting nor 
understanding opposition ; but when it met opposition 
it did not merely flutter and collapse ; it was inwardly 
outraged, it protested proudly against fate, it cried aloud 
for liberty and justice. 

The consequence was that Shelley, having a nature 
preformed but at the same time tender, passionate, and 
moral, was exposed to early and continual suffering. 
When the world violated the ideal which lay so clear 
before his eyes, that violation filled him with horror. If 
to the irrepressible gushing of life from within we add 
the suffering and horror that continually checked it, 
we shall have in hand, I think, the chief elements of 
his genius. 



THE great dramatists have seldom dealt with perfectly 
virtuous characters. The great poets have seldom repre 
sented mythologies that would bear scientific criticism. 
But by an instinct which constituted their greatness they 
have cast these mixed materials furnished by life into 
forms congenial to the specific principles of their art, and 
by this transformation they have made acceptable in 
the aesthetic sphere things that in the sphere of reality 
were evil or imperfect : in a word, their works have been 
beautiful as works of art. Or, if their genius exceeded 
that of the technical poet and rose to prophetic intuition, 
they have known how to create ideal characters, not 
possessed, perhaps, of every virtue accidentally needed 
in this world, but possessed of what is ideally better, of 
internal greatness and perfection. .They have also known 
how to select and reconstruct their mythology so as to 
make it a true interpretation of moral life. When we 
read the maxims of lago, Falstaff, or Hamlet, we are 
delighted if the thought strikes us as true, but we are 
not less delighted if it strikes us as false. These characters 
are not presented to us in order to enlarge our capacities 
of passion nor in order to justify themselves as processes 
of redemption ; they are there, clothed in poetry and 
imbedded in plot, to entertain us with their imaginable 
feelings and their interesting errors. Shakespeare, without 
being especially a philosopher, stands by virtue of his 
superlative genius on the plane of universal reason, far 
above the passionate experience which he overlooks and 
on which he reflects ; and he raises us for the moment to 
his own level, to send us back again, if not better endowed 
for practical life, at least not unacquainted with speculation. 
With Browning the case is essentially different. When 
his heroes are blinded by passion and warped by circum 
stance, as they almost always are, he does not describe 
the fact from the vantage-ground of the intellect and 
invite us to look at it from that point of view. On the 


contrary, his art is all self-expression or satire. For the 
most part his hero, like Whitman s, is himself ; not appear 
ing, as in the case of the American bard, in puns naturalibus, 
but masked in all sorts of historical and romantic finery. 
Sometimes, however, the personage, like Guido in " The 
Ring and the Book " or the " frustrate ghosts " of other 
poems, is merely a Marsyas, shown flayed and quivering 
to the greater glory of the poet s ideal Apollo. The im 
pulsive utterances and the crudities of most of the speakers 
are passionately adopted by the poet as his own. He 
thus perverts what might have been a triumph of imagina 
tion into a failure of reason. 

This circumstance has much to do with the fact that 
Browning, in spite of his extraordinary gift for expressing 
emotion, has hardly produced works purely and uncon 
ditionally delightful. They not only portray passion, 
which is interesting, but they betray it, which is odious. 
His art was still in the service of the will. He had not 
attained, in studying the beauty of things, that detach 
ment of the phenomenon, that love of the form for its own 
sake, which is the secret of contemplative satisfaction. 
Therefore, the lamentable accidents of his personality 
and opinions, in themselves no worse than those of other 
mortals, passed into his art. He did not seek to elude 
them : he had no free speculative faculty to dominate 
them by. Or, to put the same thing differently, he was 
too much in earnest in his fictions, he threw himself too 
unreservedly into his creations. His imagination, like the 
imagination we have in dreams, was merely a vent for 
personal preoccupations. His art was inspired by purposes 
less simple and universal than the ends of imagination 
itself. His play of mind consequently could not be free 
or pure. The creative impulse could not reach its goal 
or manifest in any notable degree its own ingenuous ideal. 

Browning, who had not had the education traditional 
in his own country, used to say that Italy had been his 
university. But it was a school for which he was ill 
prepared, and he did not sit under its best teachers. For 
the superficial ferment, the worldly passions, and the 
crimes of the Italian Renaissance he had a keen interest 
and intelligence. But Italy has been always a civilized 


country, and beneath the trappings and suits of civiliza 
tion which at that particular time it flaunted so gaily, it 
preserved a civilized heart to which Browning s insight 
could never penetrate. There subsisted in the best minds 
a trained imagination and a cogent ideal of virtue. Italy 
had a religion, and that religion permeated all its life, 
and was the background without which even its secular 
art and secular passions would not be truly intelligible. 
The most commanding and representative, the deepest and 
most appealing of Italian natures are permeated with this 
religious inspiration. A Saint Francis, a Dante, a Michael 
Angelo, breathe hardly anything else. Yet for Browning these 
men and what they represented may be said not to have 
existed. He saw, he studied, and he painted a decapitated 
Italy. His vision could not mount so high as her head. 

One of the elements of that higher tradition which 
Browning was not prepared to imbibe was the idealization 
of love. The passion he represents is lava hot from the 
crater, in no way moulded, smelted, or refined. He had 
no thought of subjugating impulses into the harmony of 
reason. He did not master life, but was mastered by it. 
Accordingly the love he describes has no wings ; it issues 
in nothing. His lovers " extinguish sight and speech, 
each on each " ; sense, as he says elsewhere, drowning 
soul. The man in the gondola may well boast that he can 
die ; it is the only thing he can properly do. Death is the 
only solution of a love that is tied to its individual object 
and inseparable from the alloy of passion and illusion 
within itself. Browning s hero, because he has loved 
intensely, says that he has lived ; he would be right, if 
the significance of life were to be measured by the inten 
sity of the feeling it contained, and if intelligence were 
not the highest form of vitality. But had that hero 
known how to love better and had he had enough spirit 
to dominate his love, he might perhaps have been able to 
carry away the better part of it and to say that he could 
not die ; for one half of himself and of his love would 
have been dead already and the other half would have 
been eternal, having fed 

On death, that feeds on men ; 
And death once dead, there s no more dying then. 


The irrationality of the passions which Browning 
glorifies, making them the crown of life, is so gross that 
at times he cannot help perceiving it. 

How perplexed 
Grows belief ! Well, this cold clay clod 

Was man s heart : 
Crumble it, and what comes next ? Is it God ? 

Yes, he will tell us. These passions and follies, however 
desperate in themselves and however vain for the individual, 
are excellent as parts of the dispensation of Providence : 

Be hate that fruit or love that fruit, 
It forwards the general deed of man, 
And each of the many helps to recruit 
The life of the race by a general plan, 
Each living his own to boot. 

If we doubt, then, the value of our own experience, 
even perhaps of our experience of love, we may appeal 
to the interdependence of goods and evils in the world to 
assure ourselves that, in view of its consequences elsewhere, 
this experience was great and important after all. We 
need not stop to consider this supposed solution, which 
bristles with contradictions ; it would not satisfy Browning 
himself, if he did not back it up with something more to 
his purpose, something nearer to warm and transitive 
feeling. The compensation for our defeats, the answer 
to our doubts, is not to be found merely in a proof of the 
essential necessity and perfection of the universe ; that 
would be cold comfort, especially to so uncontemplative 
a mind. No : that answer and compensation are to come 
very soon and very vividly to every private bosom. There 
is another life, a series of other lives, for this to happen in. 
Death will come, and 

I shall thereupon 
Take rest, ere I be gone 
Once more on my adventure brave and new, 
Fearless and unperplexed, 
When I wage battle next, 
What weapons to select, what armour to endue. 



For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave, 

The black minute s at end, 
And the element s rage, the fiend-voices that rave 

Shall dwindle, shall blend. 
Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain, 

Then a light, then thy breast, 
O thou soul of my soul ! I shall clasp thee again 

And with God be the rest ! 

Into this conception of continued life Browning has 
put all the items furnished by fancy or tradition which 
at the moment satisfied his imagination new adventures, 
reunion with friends, and even, after a severe strain and 
for a short while, a little peace and quiet. The gist of 
the matter is that we are to live indefinitely, that all our 
faults can be turned to good, all our unfinished business 
settled, and that therefore there is time for anything we 
like in this world and for all we need in the other. It 
is in spirit the direct opposite of the philosophic maxim 
of regarding the end, of taking care to leave a finished 
life and a perfect character behind us. It is the opposite, 
also, of the religious memento mori, of the warning that 
the time is short before we go to our account. According 
to Browning, there is no account : we have an infinite 
credit. With an unconscious and characteristic mixture 
of heathen instinct with Christian doctrine, he thinks of 
the other world as heaven, but of the life to be led there 
as of the life of nature. 

Aristotle observes that we do not think the business 
of life worthy of the gods, to whom we can only attri 
bute contemplation ; if Browning had had the idea of 
perfecting and rationalizing this life rather than of con 
tinuing it indefinitely, he would have followed Aristotle 
and the church in this matter. But he had no idea of 
anything eternal ; and so he gave, as he would probably 
have said, a filling to the empty Christian immortality 
by making every man busy in it about many things. 
And to the irrational man, to the boy, it is no unpleasant 
idea to have an infinite number of days to live through, 
an infinite number of dinners to eat, with an infinity of 
fresh fights and new love-affairs, and no end of last rides 

But it is a mere euphemism to call this perpetual 


vagrancy a development of the soul. A development 
means the unfolding of a definite nature, the gradual 
manifestation of a known idea. A series of phases, like 
the successive leaps of a waterfall, is no development. 
And Browning has no idea of an intelligible good which 
the phases of life might approach and with reference to 
which they might constitute a progress. His notion is 
simply that the game of life, the exhilaration of action, 
is inexhaustible. You may set up your tenpins again 
after you have bowled them over, and you may keep 
up the sport for ever. The point is to bring them down 
as often as possible with a master-stroke and a big bang. 
That will tend to invigorate in you that self-confidence 
which in this system passes for faith. But it is unmeaning 
to call such an exercise heaven, or to talk of being " with 
God " in such a life, in any sense in which we are not with 
God already and under all circumstances. Our destiny 
would rather be, as Browning himself expresses it in a 
phrase which Attila or Alaric might have composed, 
" bound dizzily to the wheel of change to slake the thirst 
of God." 

Such an optimism and such a doctrine of immortality 
can give no justification to experience which it does not 
already have in its detached parts. Indeed, those dogmas 
are not the basis of Browning s attitude, not conditions 
of his satisfaction in living, but rather overflowings of that 
satisfaction. The present life is presumably a fair average 
of the whole series of " adventures brave and new " which 
fall to each man s share ; were it not found delightful in 
itself, there would be no motive for imagining and asserting 
that it is reproduced in infinitum. So too if we did not 
think that the evil in experience is actually utilized and 
visibly swallowed up in its good effects, we should hardly 
venture to think that God could have regarded as a good 
something which has evil for its condition and which is 
for that reason profoundly sad and equivocal. But 
Browning s philosophy of life and habit of imagination 
do not require the support of any metaphysical theory. 
His temperament is perfectly self-sufficient and primary ; 
what doctrines he has are suggested by it and are too 
loose to give it more than a hesitant expression ; they are 


quite powerless to give it any justification which it might 
lack on its face. 

It is the temperament, then, that speaks ; we may 
brush aside as unsubstantial, and even as distorting, the 
web of arguments and theories which it has spun out of 
itself. And what does the temperament say ? That 
life is an adventure, not a discipline ; that the exercise 
of energy is the absolute good, irrespective of motives or 
of consequences. These are the maxims of a frank bar 
barism ; nothing could express better the lust of life, 
the dogged unwillingness to learn from experience, the 
contempt for rationality, the carelessness about perfection, 
the admiration for mere force, in which barbarism always 
betrays itself. The vague religion which seeks to justify 
this attitude is really only another outburst of the same 
irrational impulse. 

In Browning this religion takes the name of Christianity, 
and identifies itself with one or two Christian ideas 
arbitrarily selected ; but at heart it has far more affinity 
to the worship of Thor or of Odin than to the religion of 
the Cross. The zest of life becomes a cosmic emotion ; 
we lump the whole together and cry, " Hurrah for the 
Universe ! " A faith which is thus a pure matter of 
lustiness and inebriation rises and falls, attracts or repels, 
with the ebb and flow of the mood from which it springs. 
It is invincible because unseizable ; it is as safe from 
refutation as it is rebellious to embodiment. But it 
cannot enlighten or correct the passions on which it feeds. 
Like a servile priest, it flatters them in the name of Heaven. 
It cloaks irrationality in sanctimony ; and its admiration 
for every bluff folly, being thus justified by a theory, 
becomes a positive fanaticism, eager to defend any way 
ward impulse. 


NIETZSCHE was personally more philosophical than his 
philosophy. His talk about power, harshness, and superb 
immorality was the hobby of a harmless young scholar 


and constitutional invalid. He did not crave in the least 
either wealth or empire. What he loved was solitude, 
nature, music, books. But his imagination, like his judg 
ment, was captious ; it could not dwell on reality, but 
reacted furiously against it. Accordingly, when he speaks 
of the will to be powerful, power is merely an eloquent 
word on his lips. It symbolizes the escape from medio 
crity. What power would be when attained and exercised 
remains entirely beyond his horizon. What meets us every 
where is the sense of impotence and a passionate rebellion 
against it. 

That there is no God is proved by Nietzsche pragmatic 
ally, on the ground that belief in the existence of God 
would have made him uncomfortable. Not at all for the 
reason that might first occur to us : to imagine himself 
a lost soul has always been a point of pride with the 
romantic genius. The reason was that if there had been 
any gods he would have found it intolerable not to be a god 
himself. Poor Nietzsche ! The laurels of the Almighty 
would not let him sleep. 

It is hard to know if we should be more deceived in 
taking these sallies seriously or in not taking them so. On 
the one hand it all seems the swagger of an immature, half- 
playful mind, like a child that tells you he will cut your 
head off. The dreamy impulse, in its inception, is sincere 
enough, but there is no vestige of any understanding of 
what it proposes, of its conditions, or of its results. On 
the other hand these explosions are symptomatic ; there 
stirs behind them unmistakably an elemental force. That 
an attitude is foolish, incoherent, disastrous, proves nothing 
against the depth of the instinct that inspires it. Who 
could be more intensely unintelligent than Luther or 
Rousseau ? Yet the world followed them, not to turn back. 
The molecular forces of society, so to speak, had already 
undermined the systems which these men denounced. 
If the systems have survived it is only because the re 
formers, in their intellectual helplessness, could supply 
nothing to take their place. So Nietzsche, in his genial 
imbecility, betrays the shifting of great subterranean 
forces. What he said may be nothing, but the fact that 
he said it is all-important. Out of such wild intuitions, 


because the heart of the child was in them, the man of the 
future may have to build his philosophy. We should 
forgive Nietzsche his boyish blasphemies. He hated with 
clearness, if he did not know what to love. 


BOTH Christianity and romanticism accustomed people 
to disregard the intrinsic value of things. Things ought 
to be useful for salvation, or symbols of other greater but 
unknown things : it was not to be expected that they 
should be simply good in themselves. This life was to be 
justified, if justified at all, only as servile work or tedious 
business may be justified, not as health or artistic expres 
sion justify themselves. Unless some external and ulterior 
end could be achieved by living, it was thought that life 
would be vanity. Remove now the expectation of a 
millennium or of a paradise in the sky, and it may seem 
that all serious value has disappeared from our earthly 
existence. Yet this feeling is only a temporary after 
image of a particular education. 

The romantic poets, through pride, restlessness, and 
longing for vague impossible things, came to the same 
conclusion that the church had reached through censorious- 
ness and hope. To be always dissatisfied seemed to that 
Faust-like age a mark of loftiness. To be dissatisfied is, 
indeed, a healthy and promising thing, when what troubles 
us can be set right ; but the romantic mind despises such 
incidental improvements which far from freeing the wild 
egotistical soul would rather fatten and harness it. It is 
beneath the romantic pessimist to remember that people, 
in all ages, sometimes achieve what they have set their 
hearts on, and that if human will and conduct were better 
disciplined, this contentment would be more frequent and 
more massive. On the contrary, he asserts that willing 
is always and everywhere abortive. 

How can he persuade himself of something so evidently 
false ? By that mystical misinterpretation of human nature 


which is perhaps the core of romanticism. He imagines 
that what is desired is not this or that food, children, 
victory, knowledge, or some other specific goal of a human 
instinct but an abstract and perpetual happiness behind 
all these alternating interests. Of course an abstract 
and perpetual happiness is impossible, not merely because 
events are sure to disturb any equilibrium we may think 
we have established in our lives, but for the far more 
fundamental reason that we have no abstract and per 
petual instinct to satisfy. The desire for self-preservation 
or power or union with God is no more perpetual or com 
prehensive than any other : it is commonly when we are 
in straits that we become aware of such objects, and to 
achieve them, or imagine we achieve them, will give us 
only a momentary satisfaction, like any other success. 
A highest good to be obtained apart from each and every 
specific interest is more than unattainable ; it is unthink 
able. The romanticist, chasing wilfully that ignis fatuus, 
naturally finds his life arduous and disappointing. But 
he might have learned from Plato or any sound moralist, 
if his genius could allow him to learn anything, that the 
highest good of man is the sum and harmony of those 
specific goods upon which his nature is directed. But 
because the romantic will was unteachable, all will was 
declared to be foolish. 


SCHOPENHAUER somewhere observes that the word heathen, 
no longer in reputable use elsewhere, had found a last 
asylum in Oxford, the paradise of dead philosophies. 
Even Oxford, I believe, has now abandoned it ; yet it is a 
good word. It conveys, as no other word can, the sense 
of vast multitudes tossing in darkness, harassed by demons 
of their own choice. No doubt it implies also a certain 
sanctimony in the superior person who uses it, as if he 
at least were not chattering in the general Babel. What 
justified Jews, Christians, and Moslems (as Mohammed in 
particular insisted) in feeling this superiority was the 


possession of a Book, a chart of life, as it were, in which 
the most important features of history and morals were 
mapped out for the guidance of teachable men. The 
heathen, on the contrary, were abandoned to their own 
devices, and even prided themselves on following only 
their spontaneous will, their habit, presumption, or caprice. 

Most unprejudiced people would now agree that the 
value of those sacred histories and rules of life did not 
depend on their alleged miraculous origin, but rather on 
that solidity and perspicacity in their authors which 
enabled them to perceive the laws of sweet and profitable 
conduct in this world. It was not religion merely that 
was concerned, at least not that outlying, private, and 
almost negligible sphere to which we often apply this 
name ; it was the whole fund of experience mankind had 
gathered by living ; it was wisdom. Now, to record these 
lessons of experience, the Greeks and Romans also had 
their Books ; their history, poetry, science, and civil law. 
So that while the theologically heathen may be those 
who have no Bible, the morally and essentially heathen 
are those who possess no authoritative wisdom, or reject 
the authority of what wisdom they have ; the untaught 
or unteachable who disdain not only revelation but what 
revelation stood for among early peoples, namely, funded 

In this sense the Greeks were the least heathen of men. 
They were singularly docile to political experiment, to 
law, to methodical art, to the proved limitations and re 
sources of mortal life. This life they found closely hedged 
about by sky, earth, and sea, by war, madness, and con 
science with their indwelling deities, by oracles and local 
genii with their accustomed cults, by a pervasive fate, 
and the jealousy of invisible gods. Yet they saw that 
these divine forces were constant, and that they exercised 
their pressure and bounty with so much method that a 
prudent art and religion could be built up in their midst. 
All this was simply a poetic prologue to science and 
the arts ; it largely passed into them, and would have 
passed into them altogether if the naturalistic genius of 
Greece had not been crossed in Socrates by a premature 
discouragement, and diverted into other channels. 


Early Hebraism itself had hardly been so wise. It 
had regarded its tribal and moral interests as absolute, 
and the Creator as the champion and omnipotent agent 
of Israel. But this arrogance and inexperience were 
heathen. Soon the ascendency of Israel over nature 
and history was proclaimed to be conditional on their 
fidelity to the Law ; and as the spirit of the nation under 
chastisement became more and more penitential, it was 
absorbed increasingly in the praise of wisdom. Salvation 
was to come only by repentance, by being born again with 
a will wholly transformed and broken ; so that the later 
Jewish religion went almost as far as Platonism or Christi 
anity in the direction opposite to heathenism. 

This movement in the direction of an orthodox wisdom 
was regarded as a progress in those latter days of antiquity 
when it occurred, and it continued to be so regarded in 
Christendom until the rise of romanticism. The most 
radical reformers simply urged that the current orthodoxy, 
religious or scientific, was itself imperfectly orthodox, 
being corrupt, overloaded, too vague, or too narrow. As 
every actual orthodoxy is avowedly incomplete and partly 
ambiguous, a sympathetic reform of it is always in order. 
Yet very often the reformers are deceived. What really 
offends them may not be what is false in the received 
orthodoxy, but what though true is uncongenial to them. 
In that case heathenism, under the guise of a search for 
a purer wisdom, is working in their souls against wisdom 
of any sort. Such is the suspicion that Catholics would 
throw on Protestantism, naturalists on idealism, and 
conservatives generally on all revolutions. 

But if ever heathenism needed to pose as constructive 
reform, it is now quite willing and able to throw off the 
mask. Desire for any orthodox wisdom at all may be 
repudiated ; it may be set down to low vitality and failure 
of nerve. In various directions at once we see to-day 
an intense hatred and disbelief gathering head against 
the very notion of a cosmos to be discovered, or a stable 
human nature to be respected. Nature, we are told, is 
an artificial symbol employed by life ; truth is a temporary 
convention ; art is an expression of personality ; war is 
better than peace, effort than achievement, and feeling 


than intelligence ; change is deeper than form ; will is 
above morality. Expressions of this kind are sometimes 
wanton and only half thought out ; but they go very deep 
in the subjective direction. Behind them all is a sincere 
revulsion against the difficult and confused undertakings 
of reason ; against science, institutions, and moral com 
pulsions. They mark an honest retreat into immediate 
experience and animal faith. Man used to be called a 
rational animal, but his rationality is something eventual 
and ideal, whereas his animality is actual and profound. 
Heathenism, if we consider life at large, is the primal and 
universal religion. 

It has never been my good fortune to see wild beasts 
in the jungle, but I have sometimes watched a wild bull 
in the ring, and I can imagine no more striking, simple, 
and heroic example of animal faith ; especially when the 
bull is what is technically called noble, that is, when he 
follows the lure again and again with eternal singleness of 
thought, eternal courage, and no suspicion of a hidden 
agency that is mocking him. What the red rag is to this 
brave creature, their passions, inclinations, and chance 
notions are to the heathen. What they will they will ; 
and they would deem it weakness and disloyalty to ask 
whether it is worth willing or whether it is attainable. 
The bull, magnificently sniffing the air, surveys the arena 
with the cool contempt and disbelief of the idealist, as if 
he said : " You seem, you are a seeming ; I do not quarrel 
with you, I do not fear you. I am real, you are nothing." 
Then suddenly, when his eye is caught by some bright 
cloak displayed before him, his whole soul changes. His 
will awakes and he seems to say : " You are my destiny ; 
I want you, I hate you, you shall be mine, you shall not 
stand in my path. I will gore you. I will disprove you. 
I will pass beyond you. I shall be, you shall not have 
been." Later, when sorely wounded and near his end, 
he grows blind to all these excitements. He smells the 
moist earth, and turns to the dungeon where an hour ago 
he was at peace. He remembers the herd, the pasture 
beyond, and he dreams : "I shall not die, for I love life. 
I shall be young again, young always, for I love youth. 
All this outcry is nought to me, this strange suffering is 


nought. I will go to the fields again, to graze, to roam, 
to love." 

So exactly, with not one least concession to the un 
suspected reality, the heathen soul stands bravely before 
a painted world, covets some bauble, and defies death. 
Heathenism is the religion of will, the faith which life 
has in itself because it is life, and in its aims because it 
is pursuing them. 




8 7 

MATERIALISM, like any system of natural philosophy, 
carries with it no commandments and no advice. It 
merely describes the world, including the aspirations and 
consciences of mortals, and refers all to a material ground. 
The materialist, being a man, will not fail to have pre 
ferences, and even a conscience, of his own ; but his 
precepts and policy will express, not the logical implications 
of his science, but his human instincts, as inheritance 
and experience may have shaped them. Any system of 
ethics might accordingly coexist with materialism ; for if 
materialism declares certain things (like immortality) to 
be impossible, it cannot declare them to be undesirable. 
Nevertheless, it is not likely that a man so constituted as to 
embrace materialism will be so constituted as to pursue 
things which he considers unattainable. There is therefore 
a psychological, though no logical, bond between materialism 
and a homely morality. 

The materialist is primarily an observer ; and he will 
probably be such in ethics also ; that is, he will have no 
ethics, except the emotion produced upon him by the 
march of the world. If he is an esprit fort and really 
disinterested, he will love life ; as we all love perfect 
vitality, or what strikes us as such, in gulls and porpoises. 
This, I think, is the ethical sentiment psychologically 
consonant with a vigorous materialism : sympathy with 
the movement of things, interest in the rising wave, delight 
at the foam it bursts into, before it sinks again. Nature 
does not distinguish the better from the worse, but the 
lover of nature does. He calls better what, being analogous 
to his own life, enhances his vitality and probably possesses 



some vitality of its own. This is the ethical feeling of 
Spinoza, the greatest of modern naturalists in philosophy ; 
and Lucretius, in spite of his fidelity to the ascetic Epicurus, 
is carried by his poetic ecstasy in the same direction. 

But mark the crux of this union : the materialist will 
love the life of nature when he loves his own life ; if he 
should hate his own life, how should the life of nature 
please him ? Now Epicurus, for the most part, hated life. 
His moral system, called hedonism, recommends that sort 
of pleasure which has no excitement and no risk about it. 
This ideal is modest, and even chaste, but it is not vital. 
Epicurus was remarkable for his mercy, his friendliness, 
his utter horror of war, of sacrifice, of suffering. These 
are not sentiments that a genuine naturalist would be apt 
to share. Pity and repentance, Spinoza said, were vain 
and evil ; what increased a man s power and his joy 
increased his goodness also. The naturalist will believe 
in a certain hardness, as Nietzsche did ; he will incline to 
a certain scorn, as the laughter of Democritus was scornful. 
He will not count too scrupulously the cost of what he 
achieves ; he will be an imperialist, rapt in the joy of 
achieving something. In a word, the moral hue of 
materialism in a formative age, or in an aggressive mind, 
would be aristocratic and imaginative ; but in a decadent 
age, or in a soul that is renouncing everything, it would 
be, as in Epicurus, humanitarian and timidly sensual. 


SINCE the days of Descartes it has been a conception 
familiar to philosophers that every visible event in nature 
might be explained by previous visible events, and that all 
the motions, for instance, of the tongue in speech, or of 
the hand in painting, might have merely physical causes. 
If consciousness is thus accessory to life and not essential 
to it, the race of man might have existed upon the earth 
and acquired all the arts necessary for its subsistence 
without possessing a single sensation, idea, or emotion. 
Natural selection might have secured the survival of 


those automata which made useful reactions upon their 
environment. An instinct of self-preservation would have 
been developed, dangers would have been shunned without 
being feared, and injuries avenged without being felt. 

In such a world there might have come to be the most 
perfect organization. There would have been what we 
should call the expression of the deepest interests and the 
apparent pursuit of conceived goods. For there would 
have been spontaneous and ingrained tendencies to avoid 
certain contingencies and to produce others ; all the 
dumb show and evidence of thinking would have been 
patent to the observer ; he might have feigned ends and 
objects of forethought, as in the case of the water that 
seeks its own level, or of the vacuum which nature abhors. 
But the particles of matter would have remained uncon 
scious of their collocation, and all nature would have been 
insensible of their changing arrangement. We only, the 
possible spectators of that process, by virtue of our own 
interests and habits, could see any progress or culmination 
in it. We should see culmination where the result attained 
satisfied our practical or aesthetic demands, and progress 
wherever such a satisfaction was approached. But apart 
from ourselves, and our human bias, we can see in such a 
mechanical world no element of value whatever. In remov 
ing consciousness, we have removed the possibility of worth. 

But it is not only in the absence of all consciousness 
that value would be removed from the world ; by a less 
violent abstraction from the total life of nature, we might 
conceive beings of a purely intellectual cast, minds in 
which the transformations of things were mirrored without 
any emotion. Every event would then be noted, its 
relations would be observed, its recurrence might even 
be expected ; but all this would happen without a shadow 
of desire, of pleasure, or of regret. No event would be 
repulsive, no situation terrible. We might, in a word, 
have a world of idea without a world of will. In this case, 
as completely as if consciousness were absent altogether, 
all value and excellence would be gone. So that for the 
existence of good in any form it is not merely consciousness 
but emotional consciousness that is needed. Observation 
will not do, appreciation is required. 



We may therefore at once assert this axiom, important 
for all moral philosophy and fatal to certain stubborn 
incoherences of thought, that there is no value apart 
from some appreciation of it, and no good apart, from some 
preference of it before its absence or its opposite. In 
appreciation, in preference, lies the root and essence of 
all excellence. Or, as Spinoza clearly expresses it, we 
desire nothing because it is good, but it is good only because 
we desire it. 

It is true that in the absence of an instinctive reaction 
we can still apply these epithets by an appeal to usage. 
We may agree that an action is bad, or a building good, 
because we recognize in them a character which we have 
learned to designate by that adjective ; but unless there is 
in us some trace of passionate reprobation or of sensible 
delight, there is no moral or aesthetic judgment. It is all 
a question of propriety of speech, and of the empty titles 
of things. The verbal and mechanical proposition, that 
passes for judgment of worth, is the great cloak of ineptitude 
in these matters. Insensibility is very quick in the con 
ventional use of words. If we appealed more often to 
actual feeling, our judgments would be more diverse, 
but they would be more legitimate and instructive. 

Values spring from the immediate and inexplicable 
reaction of vital impulse, and from the irrational part 
@f our nature. The rational part is by its essence relative ; 
it leads us from data to conclusions, or from parts to 
wholes ; it never furnishes the data with which it works. 
If any preference or precept were declared to be ultimate 
and primitive, it would thereby be declared to be irrational, 
since mediation, inference, and synthesis are the essence 
of rationality. The ideal of rationality is itself as arbitrary, 
as much dependent on the needs of a finite organization, 
as any other ideal. Only as ultimately securing tran 
quillity of mind, which the philosopher instinctively pursues, 
has it for him any necessity. In spite of the verbal pro 
priety of saying that reason demands rationality, what 
really demands rationality, what makes it a good and 
indispensable thing and gives it all its authority, is not 
its own nature, but our need of it both in safe and economical 
action and in the pleasures of comprehension. 



A THEORY is not an unemotional thing. If music can be 
full of passion, merely by giving form to a single sense, 
how with much more beauty or terror may not a vision 
be pregnant which brings order and method into every 
thing that we know. Materialism has its distinct aesthetic 
and emotional colour, though this may be strangely affected 
and even reversed by contrast with systems of an incon 
gruous hue, jostling it accidentally in a confused and 
amphibious mind. If you are in the habit of believing 
in special providences, or of expecting to continue your 
romantic adventures in a second life, materialism will 
dash your hopes most unpleasantly, and you may think 
for a year or two that you have nothing left to live for. 
But a thorough materialist, one born to the faith and 
not half plunged into it by an unexpected christening in 
cold water, will be like the superb Democritus, a laughing 
philosopher. His delight in a mechanism that can fall 
into so many marvellous and beautiful shapes, and can 
generate so many exciting passions, should be of the same 
intellectual quality as that which the visitor feels in a 
museum of natural history, where he views the myriad 
butterflies in their cases, the flamingoes and shell-fish, the 
mammoths and gorillas. Doubtless there were pangs 
in that incalculable life, but they were soon over ; and 
how splendid meantime was the pageant, how infinitely 
interesting the universal interplay, and how foolish and 
inevitable those absolute little passions. Somewhat of 
that sort might be the sentiment that materialism would 
arouse in a vigorous mind, active, joyful, impersonal, and 
in respect to private illusions not without a touch of 

To the genuine sufferings of living creatures the ethics 
that accompanies materialism has never been insensible ; 
on the contrary, like other merciful systems, it has trembled 
too much at pain and tended to withdraw the will ascetic- 
ally, lest the will should be defeated. Contempt for 


mortal sorrows is reserved for those who drive with hosannas 
the Juggernaut car of absolute optimism. But against 
evils born of pure vanity and self-deception, against the 
verbiage by which man persuades himself that he is the 
goal and acme of the universe, laughter is the proper 
defence. Laughter also has this subtle advantage, that 
it need not remain without an overtone of sympathy and 
brotherly understanding ; as the laughter that greets 
Don Quixote s absurdities and misadventures does not 
mock the hero s intent. His ardour was admirable, but 
the world must be known before it can be reformed pertin 
ently, and happiness, to be attained, must be placed in 

Oblivious of Democritus, the unwilling materialists 
of our day have generally been awkwardly intellectual 
and quite incapable of laughter. If they have felt any 
thing, they have felt melancholy. Their allegiance and 
affection were still fixed on those mythical sentimental 
worlds which they saw to be illusory. The mechanical 
world they believed in could not please them, in spite 
of its extent and fertility. When their imagination was 
chilled they spoke of nature, most unwarrantably, as 
dead, and when their judgment was heated they took 
the next step and called it unreal. A man is not blind, 
however, because every part of his body is not an eye, 
nor every muscle in his eye a nerve sensitive to light. 
Why, then, is nature dead, although it swarms with living 
organisms, if every part is not obviously animate ? And 
why is the sun dark and cold, if it is bright and hot only 
to animal sensibility ? This senseless lamentation is like 
the sophism of those Indian preachers who, to make men 
abandon the illusions of self-love, dilated on the shocking 
contents of the human body. Take off the skin, they cried, 
and you will discover nothing but loathsome bleeding and 
quivering substances. Yet the inner organs are well enough 
in their place and doubtless pleasing to the microbes that 
inhabit them ; and a man is not hideous because his 
cross-section would not offer the features of a beautiful 
countenance. So the structure of the world is not therefore 
barren or odious because, if you removed its natural outer 
aspect and effects, it would not make an interesting land- 


scape. Beauty being an appearance and life an operation, 
that is surely beautiful and living which so operates and 
so appears as to manifest those qualities. 

It is true that materialism prophesies an ultimate 
extinction for man and all his works. The horror which 
this prospect inspires in the natural man might be mitigated 
by reflection ; but, granting the horror, is it something 
introduced by mechanical theories and not present in 
experience itself ? Are human things inwardly stable ? 
Do they belong to the eternal in any sense in which the 
operation of material forces can touch their immortality ? 
The panic which seems to seize some minds at the thought 
of a merely natural existence is something truly hysterical ; 
and yet one wonders why ultimate peace should seem so 
intolerable to people who not so many years ago found 
a stern religious satisfaction in consigning almost the whole 
human race to perpetual torture, the Creator, as Saint 
Augustine tells us, having in his infinite wisdom and justice 
devised a special kind of material fire that might avail 
to burn resurrected bodies for ever without consuming 
them. A very real truth might be read into this savage 
symbol, if we understood it to express the ultimate defeats 
and fruitless agonies that pursue human folly ; and so 
we might find that it gave mythical expression to just 
that conditioned fortune and inexorable flux which a 
mechanical philosophy shows us the grounds of. Our 
own vices in another man seem particularly hideous ; and 
so those actual evils which we take for granted when 
incorporated in the current system strike us afresh when 
we see them in a new setting. But it is not mechanical 
science that introduced mutability into things nor material 
ism that invented death. 

The death of individuals, as we observe daily in nature, 
does not prevent the reappearance of life ; and if we choose 
to indulge in arbitrary judgments on a subject where data 
fail us, we may as reasonably wish that there might be 
less life as that there might be more. The passion for a 
large and permanent population in the universe is not 
obviously rational ; at a great distance a man must view 
everything, including himself, under the form of eternity, 
and when life is so viewed its length or its diffusion becomes 


a point of little importance. What matters then is quality. 
The reasonable and humane demand to make of the world 
is that such creatures as exist should not be unhappy, 
and that life, whatever its quantity, should have a quality 
that may justify it in its own eyes. This just demand, 
made by conscience and not by an arbitrary fancy, the 
world described by materialism does not fulfil altogether, 
for adjustments in it are tentative, and much friction must 
precede and follow upon any vital equilibrium attained. 
This imperfection, however, is actual, and no theory can 
overcome it except by verbal fallacies and scarcely decep 
tive euphemisms. What materialism involves in this 
respect is exactly what we find : a tentative appearance 
of life in many quarters, its disappearance in some, and 
its reinforcement and propagation in others, where the 
physical equilibrium attained insures to it a natural stability 
and a natural prosperity. 

To pass beyond good and evil is to reach a sublime neces 
sity which, to an unselfish and pure intellect, may seem a 
grander thing. All depends on not being afraid to confess 
that the universe is non-human, and that man is relative. 
Let a man once overcome his selfish terror at his own 
finitude, and his finitude itself is, in one sense, overcome. 
A part of his soul, in sympathy with the infinite, has 
accepted the natural status of all the rest of his being. 
Perhaps the only true dignity of man is his capacity to 
despise himself. When he attains this dignity all things 
lose what was threatening and sinister about them, without 
needing to change their material form or their material 
influence. Man s intellectual part and his worshipping 
part have made their peace with the world. 


IT is a remarkable fact, which may easily be misinter 
preted, that while all the benefits and pleasures of life 
seem to be associated with external things, and all certain 
knowledge seems to describe material laws, yet a deified 


nature has generally inspired a religion of melancholy. 
Why should the only intelligible philosophy seem to defeat 
reason and the chief means of benefiting mankind seem to 
blast our best hopes ? Whence this profound aversion to 
so beautiful and fruitful a universe ? Whence this persist 
ent search for invisible regions and powers and for meta 
physical explanations that can explain nothing, while 
nature s voice without and within man cries aloud to him 
to look, act, and enjoy ? And when some one, in protest 
against such senseless oracular prejudices, has actually 
embraced the life and faith of nature and taught others 
to look to the natural world for all motives and sanctions, 
expecting thus to refresh and marvellously to invigorate 
human life, why have those innocent hopes failed so 
miserably ? Why is that sensuous optimism we may call 
Greek, or that industrial optimism we may call American, 
such a thin disguise for despair ? Why does each melt 
away and become a mockery at the first approach of 
reflection ? Why has man s conscience in the end invari 
ably rebelled against naturalism and reverted in some form 
or other to a cultus of the unseen ? 

We may answer in the words of Saint Paul : because 
things seen are temporal and things not seen are eternal. 
And we may add that the eternal is the truly human, 
that which is akin to the first indispensable products of 
intelligence, which arise by the fusion of successive images 
in discourse, and transcend the particular in time, peopling 
the mind with permanent and recognizable objects, and 
strengthening it with a synthetic, dramatic apprehension 
of itself and its own experience. Concretion in existence, 
on the contrary, yields essentially detached and empirical 
unities, foreign to mind in spite of their order, and unin 
telligible in spite of their clearness. Reason fails to 
assimilate in them precisely that which makes them 
existent, namely, their presence here and now, in this 
order and number. The form and quality of them we can 
retain, domesticate, and weave into the texture of reflec 
tion, but their existence and individuality remain a dogma 
of sense needing to be verified anew at every moment and 
actually receiving continual verification or disproof while 
we live in this world. 


" This world " we call it, not without justifiable pathos, 
for many other worlds are conceivable and if discovered 
might prove more rational and intelligible and more akin 
to the soul than this strange universe which man has 
hitherto always looked upon with increasing astonishment. 
The materials of experience are no sooner in hand than 
they are transformed by intelligence, reduced to those 
permanent presences, those natures and relations, which 
alone can live in discourse. Those materials, rearranged 
into the abstract summaries we call history or science, or 
pieced out into the reconstructions and extensions we call 
poetry or religion, furnish us with ideas of as many dream 
worlds as we please, all nearer to reason s ideal than is the 
actual chaos of perceptual experience, and some nearer 
to the heart s desire. When an empirical philosophy, 
therefore, calls us back from the irresponsible flights of 
imagination to the shock of sense and tries to remind us 
that in this alone we touch existence and come upon fact, 
we feel dispossessed of our nature and cramped in our life. 
The actuality possessed by existence cannot make up for 
its instability, nor the applicability of scientific principles 
for their hypothetical character. The dependence upon 
sense, which we are reduced to when we consider the world 
of existences, becomes a too plain hint of our essential 
impotence and mortality, while the play of logical fancy, 
though it remain inevitable, is saddened by a consciousness 
of its own insignificance. 

That dignity, then, which inheres in logical ideas and 
their affinity to moral enthusiasm, springs from their 
congruity with the primary habits of intelligence and 
idealization. The soul or self or personality, which in 
sophisticated social life is so much the centre of passion 
and concern, is itself an idea, a concretion in discourse ; 
and the level on which it swims comes to be, by association 
and affinity, the region of all the more vivid and massive 
human interests. The pleasures which lie beneath it are 
ignored, and the ideals which lie above it are not perceived. 
Aversion to an empirical or naturalistic philosophy accord 
ingly expresses a sort of logical patriotism and attachment 
to homespun idea?. The actual is too remote and un 
friendly to the dreamer ; to understand it he has to learn 


a foreign tongue, which his native prejudice imagines to 
be unmeaning and unpoetical. The truth is, however, 
that nature s language is too rich for man ; and the dis 
comfort he feels when he is compelled to use it merely 
marks his lack of education. There is nothing cheaper 
than idealism. It can be had by merely not observing the 
ineptitude of our chance prejudices, and by declaring 
that the first rhymes that have struck our ear are the eternal 
and necessary harmonies of the world. 

With nature so full of stuff before him, I can hardly 
conceive what morbid instinct can tempt a man to look 
elsewhere for wider vistas, unless it be unwillingness to 
endure the sadness and the discipline of the truth. 

If it be true that matter is sinful, the logic of this truth 
is far from being what the fanatics imagine who commonly 
propound it. Matter is sinful only because it is insuffi 
cient or is wastefully distributed. There is not enough 
of it to go round among the legion of hungry ideas. To 
embody or enact an idea is the only way of making it 
actual : but its embodiment may mutilate it, if the material 
or the situation is not propitious. So an infant may be 
maimed at birth, when what injures him is not being 
brought forth, but being brought forth in the wrong manner. 
Matter has a double function in respect to moral life : 
essentially it enables the spirit to be, yet chokes it inci 
dentally. Men sadly misbegotten, or those who are 
thwarted at every step by the times penury, may fall to 
thinking of matter only by its defect, ignoring the material 
ground of their own aspirations. All flesh will seem to 
them weak, except that forgotten piece of it which makes 
their own spiritual strength. Every impulse, however, 
had initially the same authority as this censorious one, 
by which the others are now judged and condemned. 

Throw open to the young poet the infinity of nature ; 
let him feel the precariousness of life, the variety of pur 
poses, civilizations, and religions even upon this little 
planet ; let him trace the triumphs and follies of art and 
philosophy, and their perpetual resurrections. If, under 
the stimulus of such a scene, he does not some day compose 
a natural comedy as much surpassing Dante s divine 
comedy in sublimity and richness as it will surpass it in 


truth, the fault will not lie with the subject, which is 
inviting and magnificent, but with the halting genius that 
cannot render that subject worthily. 

Undoubtedly, the universe so displayed would not 
be without its dark shadows and its perpetual tragedies. 
That is in the nature of things. Dante s cosmos, for all 
its mythical idealism, was not so false as not to have a 
hell in it. Those rolling spheres, with all their lights and 
music, circled for ever about hell. Perhaps in the real life of 
nature evil may not prove to be so central as that. It 
would seem to be rather a sort of inevitable but incidental 
friction, capable of being diminished indefinitely, as the 
world is better known and the will is better educated. In 
Dante s spheres there could be no discord whatever ; 
but at the core of them was eternal woe. In the star-dust 
of our physics discords are everywhere, and harmony 
is only tentative and approximate, as it is in the best 
earthly life ; but at the core there is nothing sinister, only 
freedom, innocence, inexhaustible possibilities of all sorts 
of happiness. 


WHY the world appears as it does, whether of itself or by 
refraction in the medium of our intellect, is not a question 
that affects the practical moralist. What concerns him 
is that the laws of the world, whatever their origin, are 
fixed and unchangeable conditions of our happiness. We 
cannot change the world, even if we boast that we have 
made it ; we must in any case learn to live with it, whether 
it be our parent or our child. To veil its character with 
euphemisms or to supply its defects with superstitious 
assumptions is a course unworthy of a brave man and 
abhorrent to a prudent one. What we should do is to make 
a modest inventory of our possessions and a just estimate 
of our powers in order to apply both, with what strength 
we have, to the realization of our ideals in society, in art, 
and in science. These will constitute our Cosmos. In 


building it for there is none other that builds it for us 
we shall be carrying on the work of the only race that 
has yet seriously attempted to live rationally, the race 
to which we owe the name and the idea of a Cosmos, as 
well as the beginnings of its realization. We shall then 
be making that rare advance in wisdom which consists 
in abandoning our illusions the better to attain our 

The deceptions which nature practises on man are not 
always cruel. There are also kindly deceptions which 
prompt him to pursue or expect his own good when, though 
not destined to come in the form he looks for, this good 
is really destined to come in some shape or other. Such, 
for instance, are the illusions of romantic love, which may 
really terminate in a family life practically better than 
the absolute and chimerical unions which that love had 
dreamed of. Such, again, are those illusions of conscience 
which attach unspeakable vague penalties and repugnances 
to acts which commonly have bad results, though these 
are impossible to forecast with precision. When dis 
illusion comes, while it may bring a momentary shock, it 
ends by producing a settled satisfaction unknown before, 
a satisfaction which the coveted prize, could it have been 
attained, would hardly have secured. When on the day 
of judgment, or earlier, a man perceives that what he 
thought he was doing for the Lord s sake he was really 
doing for the benefit of the least, perhaps, of the Lord s 
creatures, his satisfaction, after a moment s surprise, 
will certainly be very genuine. 


MATERIALISM is not a system of metaphysics ; it is a specu 
lation in chemistry and physiology, to the effect that, if 
analysis could go deep enough, it would find that all sub 
stance was homogeneous, and that all motion was regular. 
The atoms of Democritus seem to us gross, even for 


chemistry, and their quality would have to undergo great 
transformation if they were to support intelligibly psychic 
being as well ; but that very grossness and false simplicity 
had its merits, and science must be for ever grateful to 
the man who at its inception could so clearly formulate 
its mechanical ideal. That the world is not so intelligible 
as we could wish is not to be wondered at. In other 
respects also it fails to respond to our demands ; yet our 
hope must be to find it more propitious to the intellect 
as well as to all the arts in proportion as we learn better 
how to live in it. 

The atoms of what we call hydrogen or oxygen may 
well turn out to be worlds, as the stars are which make 
atoms for astronomy. Their inner organization might 
be negligible on our rude plane of being ; did it disclose 
itself, however, it would be intelligible in its turn only if 
constant parts and constant laws were discernible within 
each system. So that while atomism at a given level may 
not be a final or metaphysical truth, it will describe, on 
every level, the practical and efficacious structure of the 
world. We owe to Democritus this ideal of practical 
intelligibility ; and he is accordingly an eternal spokesman 
of reason. His system, long buried with other glories 
of the world, has been partly revived ; and although it 
cannot be verified in haste, for it represents an ultimate 
ideal, every advance in science reconstitutes it in some 
particular. Mechanism is not one principle of explanation 
among others. In natural philosophy, where to explain 
means to discover origins, transmutations, and laws, 
mechanism is explanation itself. But it does not ask to 
be worshipped. A theoretical materialist, who looks on 
the natural world as on a soil that he has risen from and 
feeds on, may perhaps feel a certain piety towards those 
obscure abysses of nature that have given him birth ; 
but his delight will be rather in the clear things of the 
imagination, in the humanities, by which the rude forces 
of nature are at once expressed and eluded. 



To one brought up in a sophisticated society, or in particular 
under an ethical religion, morality seems at first an external 
command, a chilling and arbitrary set of requirements 
and prohibitions which the young heart, if it trusted itself, 
would not reckon at a penny s worth. Yet while this 
rebellion is brewing in the secret conclave of the passions, 
the passions themselves are prescribing a code. They 
are inventing gallantry and kindness and honour ; they 
are discovering friendship and paternity. With maturity 
comes the recognition that the authorized precepts of 
morality were essentially not arbitrary ; that they ex 
pressed the genuine aims and interests of a practised will ; 
that their alleged alien and supernatural basis (which if real 
would have deprived them of all moral authority) was but 
a mythical cover for their forgotten natural springs. Virtue 
is then seen to be admirable essentially, and not merely 
by conventional imputation. If traditional morality has 
much in it that is out of proportion, much that is unintelli 
gent and inert, nevertheless it represents on the whole 
the verdict of reason. It speaks for a typical human 
will chastened by a typical human experience. 

Gnomic wisdom, however, is notoriously polychrome, 
and proverbs depend for their truth entirely on the occasion 
they are applied to. Almost every wise saying has an 
opposite one, no less wise, to balance it ; so that a man 
rich in such lore, like Sancho Panza, can always find a 
venerable maxim to fortify the view he happens to be 
taking. In respect to foresight, for instance, we are told, 
Make hay while the sun shines, A stitch in time saves nine, 
Honesty is the best policy, Murder will out, Woe unto you, 
ye hypocrites, Watch and pray, Seek salvation with fear 
and trembling, and Respice finem. But on the same 
authorities exactly we have apposite maxims, inspired by 
a feeling that mortal prudence is fallible, that life is shorter 
than policy, and that only the present is real ; for we 
hear, A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, Carpe 


diem, Ars longa, vita brevis, Be not righteous overmuch, 
Enough for the day is the evil thereof, Behold the lilies 
of the field, Judge not, that ye be not judged, Mind your 
own business, and It takes all sorts of men to make a world. 
So when some particularly shocking thing happens one 
man says, Cherchez la femme, and another says, Great is 

That these maxims should be so various and partial is 
quite intelligible when we consider how they spring up. 
Every man, in moral reflection, is animated by his own 
intent ; he has something in view which he prizes, he 
knows not why, and which wears to him the essential 
and unquestionable character of a good. With this 
standard before his eyes, he observes easily for love and 
hope are extraordinarily keen-sighted what in action 
or in circumstances forwards his purpose and what thwarts 
it ; and at once the maxim comes, very likely in the 
language of the particular instance before him. Now the 
interests that speak in a man are different at different 
times ; and the outer facts or measures which in one case 
promote that interest may, where other less obvious con 
ditions have changed, altogether defeat it. Hence all 
sorts of precepts looking to all sorts of results. 

Prescriptions of this nature differ enormously in value ; 
for they differ enormously in scope. By chance intuitive 
maxims may be so central, so expressive of ultimate aims, 
so representative, I mean, of all aims in fusion, that they 
merely anticipate what moral science would have come to 
if it had existed. This happens much as in physics ultimate 
truths may be divined by poets long before they are dis 
covered by investigators ; the vivida vis animi taking 
the place of much recorded experience, because much 
unrecorded experience has secretly fed it. Such, for 
instance, is the central maxim of Christianity, Love thy 
neighbour as thyself. On the other hand, what is usual 
in intuitive codes is a mixture of some elementary precepts, 
necessary to any society, with others representing local 
traditions or ancient rites : so Thou shalt not kill, and 
Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath day, figure side by side 
in the Decalogue. When Antigone, in her sublimest 
exaltation, defies human enactments and appeals to laws 



which are not of to-day nor yesterday, no man knowing 
whence they have arisen, she mixes various types of obliga 
tion in a most instructive fashion ; for a superstitious 
horror at leaving a body unburied something decidedly 
of yesterday gives poignancy in her mind to natural 
affection for a brother something indeed universal, yet 
having a well-known origin. The passionate assertion of 
right is here, in consequence, more dramatic than spiritual ; 
and even its dramatic force has suffered somewhat by the 
change in ruling ideals. 

Intuitive ethics has nothing to offer in the presence of 
discord except an appeal to force and to ultimate physical 
sanctions. It can instigate, but cannot resolve, the battle 
of nations and the battle of religions. Precisely the same 
zeal, the same patriotism, the same readiness for martyrdom 
fires adherents to rival societies, and fires them especially 
in view of the fact that the adversary is no less uncom 
promising and fierce. It might seem idle, if not cruel and 
malicious, to wish to substitute one historical allegiance 
for another, when both are equally arbitrary, and the 
existing one is the more congenial to those born under it ; 
but to feel this aggression to be criminal demands some 
degree of imagination and justice, and sectaries would not 
be sectaries if they possessed it. 

Truly religious minds, while eager perhaps to extirpate 
every religion but their own, often rise above national 
jealousies ; for spirituality is universal, whatever churches 
may be. Similarly politicians often understand very well 
the religious situation ; and of late it has become again 
the general practice among prudent governments to do 
as the Romans did in their conquests, and to leave people 
free to exercise what religion they have, without pestering 
them with a foreign one. On the other hand the same 
politicians are the avowed agents of a quite patent iniquity ; 
for what is their ideal ? To substitute their own language, 
commerce, soldiers, and tax-gatherers for the tax-gatherers, 
soldiers, commerce, and language of their neighbours ; 
and no means is thought illegitimate, be it fraud in policy 
or bloodshed in war, to secure this absolutely nugatory 
end. Is not one country as much a country as another ? 
Is it not as dear to its inhabitants ? What then is 


gained by oppressing its genius or by seeking to destroy it 
altogether ? 

Here are two flagrant instances where pre- rational 
morality defeats the ends of morality. Viewed from 
within, each religious or national fanaticism stands for a 
good ; but in its outward operation it produces and be 
comes an evil. It is possible, no doubt, that its agents 
are really so far apart in nature and ideals that, like men 
and mosquitoes, they can stand in physical relations only, 
and if they meet can meet only to poison or to crush one 
another. More probably, however, humanity in them is no 
merely nominal essence ; it is definable ideally by a partially 
identical function and intent. In that case, by studying 
their own nature, they could rise above their mutual 
opposition, and feel that in their fanaticism they were 
taking too contracted a view of their own souls and were 
hardly doing justice to themselves when they did such 
great injustice to others. 


I CANNOT help thinking that a consciousness of the 
relativity of values, if it became prevalent, would tend 
to render people more truly social than would a belief that 
things have intrinsic and unchangeable values, no matter 
what the attitude of any one to them may be. If we 
said that goods, including the right distribution of goods, 
are relative to specific natures, moral warfare would 
continue, but not with poisoned arrows. Our private 
sense of justice itself would be acknowledged to have but 
a relative authority, and while we could not have a higher 
duty than to follow it, we should seek to meet those whose 
aims were incompatible with it as we meet things physically 
inconvenient, without insulting them as if they were 
morally vile or logically contemptible. Real unselfishness 
consists in sharing the interests of others. Beyond the 
pale of actual unanimity the only possible unselfishness 
is chivalry a recognition of the inward right and justifica- 


tion of our enemies fighting against us. This chivalry has 
long been practised in the battle-field without abolishing 
the causes of war ; and it might conceivably be extended 
to all the conflicts of men with one another, and of the 
warring elements within each breast. Policy, hypnotiza- 
tion, and even surgery may be practised without exorcisms 
or anathemas. When a man has decided on a course of 
action, it is a vain indulgence in expletives to declare that 
he is sure that course is absolutely right. His moral 
dogma expresses its natural origin all the more clearly the 
more hotly it is proclaimed ; and ethical absolutism, being a 
mental grimace of passion, refutes what it says by what 
it is. Sweeter and more profound, to my sense, is the 
philosophy of Homer, whose every line seems to breathe 
the conviction that what is beautiful or precious has not 
thereby any right to existence ; nothing has such a right ; 
nor is it given us to condemn absolutely any force god 
or man that destroys what is beautiful or precious, for 
it has doubtless something beautiful or precious of its 
own to achieve. 

If we were sure of our ground, we should be willing to 
acquiesce in the naturally different feelings and ways of 
others, as a man who is conscious of speaking his language 
with the accent of the capital confesses its arbitrariness with 
gaiety, and is pleased and interested in the variations of 
it he observes in provincials ; but the provincial is always 
zealous to show that he has reason and ancient authority 
to justify his oddities. So people who have no sensations, 
and do not know why they judge, are always trying to 
show that they judge by universal reason. 

It is unmeaning to say that what is beautiful to one man 
ought to be beautiful to another. Evidently this obligation 
of recognizing the same qualities is conditioned by the 
possession of the same faculties. But no two men have 
exactly the same faculties, nor can things have for any two 
exactly the same values. If their natures are different, 
the form which to one will be entrancing will be to another 
even invisible. And more : incapacity to appreciate 
certain types of beauty may be the condition sine qua non 
for the appreciation of another kind ; the greatest capacity 
both for enjoyment and for creation is highly specialized, 



and the greatest ages of art have often been strangely 

What is loosely expressed by saying that any one ought 
to see this or that beauty is that he would see it if his 
disposition, training, or attention were what our ideal 
demands for him ; and our ideal of what any one should 
be has complex but discoverable sources. We take, for 
instance, a certain pleasure in having our own judgments 
supported by those of others ; we are intolerant, if not 
of the existence of a nature different from our own, at 
least of its expression in words and judgments. We are 
confirmed or made happy in our doubtful opinions by seeing 
them accepted universally. If the animals could only speak 
the Inquisition would have had a pretty work on its hands. 

There is no need of refuting anything, for the will which 
is behind all ideals and behind most dogmas cannot itself 
be refuted ; but it may be enlightened and led to reconsider 
its intent, when its satisfaction is seen to be either naturally 
impossible or inconsistent with better things. The age of 
controversy is past ; that of interpretation has succeeded. 


THE objects of human desire until reason has compared 
and experience has tested them, are a miscellaneous assort 
ment of goods, unstable in themselves and incompatible 
with one another. It is a happy chance if a tolerable 
mixture of them recommends itself to a prophet or finds 
an adventitious acceptance among a group of men. 
Intuitive morality is adequate while it simply enforces 
those obvious and universal laws which are indispensable 
to any society, and which impose themselves everywhere 
on men under pain of quick extinction a penalty which 
many an individual and many a nation continually prefers 
to pay. But when intuitive morality tries to guide progress, 
its magic fails. Ideals are tentative and have to be 
critically viewed. A moralist who rests in his intuitions 
may be a good preacher, but hardly deserves the name of 


philosopher. He cannot find any authority for his maxims 
which opposite maxims may not equally invoke. To 
settle the relative merits of rival authorities and of hostile 
consciences it is necessary to appeal to the only real 
authority, to experience, reason, and human nature in the 
living man. No other test is conceivable and no other 
would be valid ; for no good man would ever consent to 
regard an authority as divine or binding which essentially 
contradicted his own conscience. Yet a conscience which 
is irreflective and incorrigible is too hastily satisfied 
with itself, and not conscientious enough : it needs 
cultivation by dialectic. It neglects to extend to all 
human interests that principle of synthesis and justice 
by which conscience itself has arisen. And so soon as the 
conscience summons its own dicta for revision in the light 
of experience and of universal sympathy, it is no longer 
called conscience, but reason. So, too, when the spirit 
summons its traditional faiths, to subject them to a similar 
examination, that exercise is not called religion, but 
philosophy. It is true, in a sense, that philosophy is the 
purest religion and reason the ultimate conscience ; but so 
to name them would be misleading. The things commonly 
called by those names have seldom consented to live at 
peace with sincere reflection. It has been felt vaguely 
that reason could not have produced them, and that they 
might suffer sad changes by submitting to it ; as if reason 
could be the ground of anything, or as if everything might 
not find its consummation in becoming rational. 

There is one impulse which intuitive moralists ignore : 
the impulse to reflect. Human instincts are ignorant, 
multitudinous, and contradictory. To satisfy them as 
they come is often impossible, and often disastrous, in 
that such satisfaction prevents the satisfaction of other 
instincts inherently no less fecund and legitimate. When 
we apply reason to life we immediately demand that life 
be consistent, complete, and satisfactory when reflected 
upon and viewed as a whole. This view, as it presents 
each moment in its relations, extends to all moments 
affected by the action or maxim under discussion ; it has 
no more ground for stopping at the limits of what is called 
a single life than at the limits of a single adventure. To 


stop at selfishness is not particularly rational. The same 
principle that creates the ideal of a self creates the ideal of 
a family or an institution. 

The conflict between selfishness and altruism is like 
that between any two ideal passions that in some particular 
may chance to be opposed ; but such a conflict has no 
obstinate existence for reason. For reason the person 
itself has no obstinate existence. The character which a 
man achieves at the best moment of his life is indeed 
something ideal and significant ; it justifies and consecrates 
all his coherent actions and preferences. But the man s 
life, the circle drawn by biographers around the career of 
a particular body, from the womb to the charnel-house, 
and around the mental flux that accompanies that career, 
is no significant unity. All the substances and efficient 
processes that figure within it come from elsewhere and 
continue beyond ; while all the rational objects and 
interests to which it refers have a transpersonal status. 
Self-love itself is concerned with public opinion ; and if 
a man concentrates his view on private pleasures, these 
may qualify the fleeting moments of his life with an intrinsic 
value, but they leave the life itself shapeless and infinite, 
as if sparks should play over a piece of burnt paper. 

Rational morality is an embodiment of volition, not a 
description of it. It is the expression of living interest, 
preference, and categorical choice. It leaves to psychology 
and history a free field for the description of moral 
phenomena. It has no interest in slipping far-fetched 
and incredible myths beneath the facts of nature, so as to 
lend a non-natural origin to human aspirations. It even 
recognizes, as an emanation of its own force, that un 
compromising truthfulness with which science assigns all 
forms of moral life to their place in the mechanical system 
of nature. But the rational moralist is not on that account 
reduced to a mere spectator, a physicist acknowledging 
no interest except the interest in facts and in the laws 
of change. His own spirit, small by the material forces 
which it may stand for and express, is great by its preroga 
tive of surveying and judging the universe ; surveying it, 
of course, from a mortal point of view, and judging it only 
by its kindliness or cruelty to some actual interest, yet, 


even so, determining unequivocally a part of its constitution 
and excellence. The rational moralist represents a force 
energizing in the world, discovering its affinities there 
and clinging to them to the exclusion of their hateful 
opposites. He represents, over against the chance facts, 
an ideal embodying the particular demands, possibilities, 
and satisfactions of a reflective being. 

The radical impulses at work in any animal must 
continue to speak while he lives, for they are his essence. 
A true morality does not have to be adopted ; the parts 
of it best practised are those which are never preached. 
To be " converted " would be to pass from one self-betrayal 
to another. It would be to found a new morality on a 
new tyranny. The morality which has genuine authority 
exists inevitably and speaks autonomously in every common 
judgment, self-congratulation, ambition, or passion that 
fills the vulgar day. The pursuit of those goods which are 
the only possible or fitting crown of a man s life is pre 
determined by his nature ; he cannot choose a law-giver, 
nor accept one, for none who spoke to the purpose could 
teach him anything btit to know himself. Rational life 
is an art, not a slavery ; and terrible as may be the errors 
and the apathy that impede its successful exercise, the 
standard and goal of it are given intrinsically. Any task 
imposed externally on a man is imposed by force only, a 
force he has the right to defy so soon as he can do so without 
creating some greater impediment to his natural vocation. 

Those who are guided only by an irrational conscience 
can hardly understand what a good life would be. Their 
Utopias have to be supernatural in order that the irrespon 
sible rules which they call morality may lead by miracle 
to happy results. But such a magical and undeserved 
happiness, if it were possible, would be unsavoury : only 
one phase of human nature would be satisfied by it, and 
so impoverished an ideal cannot really attract the will. 
For human nature has been moulded by the same natural 
forces among which its ideal has to be fulfilled, and, apart 
from a certain margin of wild hopes and extravagances, 
the things man s heart desires are attainable under his 
natural conditions and would not be attainable elsewhere. 
The conflict of desires and interests in the world is not 


radical any more than man s dissatisfaction with his own 
nature can be ; for every particular ideal, being an expres 
sion of human nature in operation, must in the end involve 
the primary human faculties and cannot be essentially 
incompatible with any other ideal which involves them too. 

To adjust all demands to one ideal and adjust that 
ideal to its natural conditions in other words, to live 
the life of reason is something perfectly possible ; for 
those demands, being akin to one another in spite of 
themselves, can be better furthered by co-operation than 
by blind conflict, while the ideal, far from demanding any 
profound revolution in nature, merely expresses her actual 
tendency and forecasts what her perfect functioning 
would be. 

Reason as such represents or rather constitutes a single 
formal interest, the interest in harmony. When two 
interests are simultaneous and fall within one act of 
apprehension the desirability of harmonizing them is 
involved in the very effort to realize them together. If 
attention and imagination are steady enough to face this 
implication and not to allow impulse to oscillate between 
irreconcilable tendencies, reason comes into being. Hence 
forth things actual and things desired are confronted by 
an ideal which has both pertinence and authority. 


EVERY real pleasure is in one sense disinterested. It is 
not sought with ulterior motives, and what fills the mind 
is no calculation, but the image of an object or event, 
suffused with emotion. A sophisticated consciousness may 
often take the idea of self as the touchstone of its inclina 
tions ; but this self, for the gratification and aggrandize 
ment of which a man may live, is itself only a complex of 
aims and memories, which once had their direct objects, 
in which he had taken a spontaneous and ingenuous 
interest. The substance of selfishness is a mass of un 
selfishness. There is no reference to the nominal essence 


called oneself either in one s appetites or in one s natural 
affections ; yet a man absorbed in his meat and drink, in 
his houses and lands, in his children and dogs, is called 
selfish because these interests, although natural and instinc 
tive in him, are not shared by others. Even our vanities 
and follies are disinterested in their way. When a man 
orders his tomb according to his taste, it is not in the hope 
of enjoying his residence in it. 

When moralists deprecate passion and contrast it with 
reason, they do so, if they are themselves rational, only 
because passion is so often " guilty," because it works 
havoc so often in the surrounding world and leaves, among 
other ruins, " a heart high-sorrowful and cloyed." Were 
there no danger of such after-effects within and without the 
sufferer, no passion would be reprehensible. Nature is 
innocent, and so are all her impulses and moods when taken 
in isolation ; it is only on meeting that they blush. 


ARTISTS in life, if that expression may be used for those 
who have beautified social and domestic existence, have 
appealed continually to the lower senses. A fragrant 
garden, and savoury meats, incense, and perfumes, soft 
stuffs, and delicious colours, form our ideal of oriental 
luxuries, an ideal which appeals too much to human nature 
ever to lose its charm. Yet our northern poets have seldom 
attempted to arouse these images in their sensuous in 
tensity, without relieving them by some imaginative touch. 
In Keats, for example, we find the following lines : 

And still she slept in azure-lidded sleep, 
In blanched linen, smooth and lavendered, 
While he from forth the closet brought a heap 
Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd, 
With jellies soother than the creamy curd, 
And lucent syrops tinct with cinnamon ; 
Manna and dates in argosy transferred 
From Fez ; and spiced dainties, every one 
From silken Samarcand to cedared Lebanon. 


Even the most sensuous of English poets, in whom the 
love of beauty is supreme, cannot keep long to the primal 
elements of beauty ; the higher flight is inevitable for him. 
And how much does not the appeal to things in argosy 
transferred from Fez, reinforced with the reference to 
Samarcand and especially to the authorized beauties of the 
cedars of Lebanon, which even the Puritan may sing with 
out a blush, add to our wavering satisfaction and reconcile 
our conscience to this unchristian indulgence of sense ! 

But the time may be near when such scruples will be 
less common, and our poetry, with our other arts, will 
dwell nearer to the fountain-head of all inspiration. For if 
nothing not once in sense is to be found in the intellect, 
much less is such a thing to be found in the imagination. 
If the cedars of Lebanon did not spread a grateful shade, 
or the winds rustle through the maze of their branches, if 
Lebanon had never been beautiful to sense, it would not now 
be a fit or poetic subject of allusion. And the word " Fez " 
would be without imaginative value if no traveller had 
ever felt the intoxication of the torrid sun, or the languors 
of oriental luxury. Nor would Samarcand be anything 
but for the mystery of the desert and the picturesqueness 
of caravans, nor would an argosy be poetic if the sea had 
no voices and no foam, the winds and oars no resistance, 
and the rudder and taut sheets no pull. From these real 
sensations imagination draws its life, and suggestion its 
power. The sweep of the fancy is itself also agreeable ; 
but the superiority of the distant over the present is only 
due to the mass and variety of the pleasures that can be 
suggested, compared with the poverty of those that can 
at any time be felt. 


HEDONISTIC ethics have always had to struggle against the 
moral sense of mankind. Earnest minds, that feel the 
weight and dignity of life, rebel against the assertion that 
the aim of right conduct is enjoyment. Pleasure usually 
appears to them as a temptation, and they sometimes go 


so far as to make avoidance of it a virtue. The truth is 
that morality is not mainly concerned with the attainment 
of pleasure ; it is rather concerned, in all its deeper and 
more authoritative maxims, with the prevention of suffer 
ing. There is something artificial in the deliberate pursuit 
of pleasure ; there is something absurd in the obligation 
to enjoy oneself. We feel no duty in that direction ; we 
take to enjoyment naturally enough after the work of life 
is done, and the freedom and spontaneity of our pleasures 
is what is most essential to them. 

The sad business of life is rather to escape certain dread 
ful evils to which our nature exposes us, death, hunger, 
disease, weariness, isolation, and contempt. By the awful 
authority of these things, which stand like spectres behind 
every moral injunction, conscience in reality speaks, and 
a mind which they have duly impressed cannot but feel, 
by contrast, the hopeless triviality of the search for 
pleasure. A life abandoned to amusement and to chang 
ing impulses must run unawares into fatal dangers. The 
moment, however, that society emerges from the early 
pressure of the environment and is tolerably secure against 
primary evils, morality grows lax. The forms that life 
will farther assume are not to be imposed by moral 
authority, but are determined by the genius of the race, 
the opportunities of the moment, and the tastes and 
resources of individual minds. The reign of duty gives 
place to the reign of freedom, and the law and the covenant 
to the dispensation of grace. 


To put value in pleasure and pain, regarding a given 
quantity of pain as balancing a given quantity of pleasure, 
is to bring to practical ethics a worthy intention to be clear 
and, what is more precious, an undoubted honesty not 
always found in those moralists who maintain the opposite 
opinion and care more for edification than for truth. For 
in spite of all logical and psychological scruples, conduct 


that should not justify itself somehow by the satisfactions 
secured and the pains avoided would not justify itself at 
all. The most instinctive and unavoidable desire is forth 
with chilled if you discover that its ultimate end is to be 
a preponderance of suffering ; and what arrests this desire 
is not fear or weakness but conscience in its most categorical 
and sacred guise. Who would not be ashamed to acknow 
ledge or to propose so inhuman an action ? 

By sad experience rooted impulses may be transformed 
or even obliterated. A mind that foresees pain to be the 
ultimate result of action cannot continue unreservedly to 
act, seeing that its foresight is the conscious transcript 
of a recoil already occurring. Conversely, the mind that 
surrenders itself wholly to any impulse must think that 
its execution would be delightful. A perfectly wise and 
representative morality, therefore, would aim only at what, 
in its attainment, could continue to be aimed at and 
approved ; and this is another way of saying that its 
aim would secure the maximum of satisfaction eventually 

In spite, however, of this involution of pain and pleasure 
in all deliberate forecast and volition, pain and pleasure 
are not the ultimate sources of value. When Petrarch says 
that a thousand pleasures are not worth one pain, he 
establishes an ideal of value deeper than either pleasure or 
pain, an ideal which makes a life of satisfaction marred by 
a single pang an offence and a horror to his soul. If our 
demand for rationality is less acute and the miscellaneous 
affirmations of the will carry us along with a well-fed 
indifference to some single tragedy within us, we may aver 
that a single pang is only the thousandth part of a thousand 
pleasures and that a life so balanced is nine hundred and 
ninety-nine times better than nothing. This judgment, 
for all its air of mathematical calculation, in truth expresses 
a choice as irrational as Petrarch s. It merely means that, 
as a matter of fact, the mixed prospect presented to us 
attracts our wills and attracts them vehemently. So that 
the only possible criterion for the relative values of pains 
and pleasures is the will that chooses among them or among 
combinations of them. All beliefs about future experi 
ence, with all premonition of its emotional quality, are 


based on actual impulse and feeling ; so that the source 
of estimation is nothing but the inner fountain of life and 
imagination, and the object of pursuit nothing but the 
ideal object, counterpart of the present demand. Abstract 
satisfaction is not pursued, but, if the will and the environ 
ment are constant, satisfaction will necessarily be felt in 
achieving the object desired. 

A rejection of hedonistic psychology, therefore, by no 
means involves any opposition to eudaemonism in ethics. 
Eudsemonism is another name for wisdom : there is no 
other moral morality. Any system that, for some sinister 
reason, should absolve itself from good-will toward all 
creatures, and make it somehow a duty to secure their 
misery, would be clearly disloyal to reason, humanity, 
and justice. Nor would it be hard, in that case, to point 
out what superstition, what fantastic obsession, or what 
private fury had made those persons blind to prudence 
and kindness in so plain a matter. Happiness is the only 
sanction of life ; where happiness fails, existence remains 
a mad and lamentable experiment. The question, how 
ever, what happiness shall consist in, its complexion if it 
should once arise, can only be determined by reference to 
natural demands and capacities ; so that while satisfaction 
by the attainment of ends can alone justify their pursuit, 
this pursuit itself must exist first and be spontaneous, 
thereby fixing the goals of endeavour and distinguishing 
the states in which satisfaction might be found. Natural 
disposition, therefore, is the principle of preference and 
makes morality and happiness possible. 

The polemic which certain moralists have waged 
against pleasure and in favour of pain is intelligible when 
we remember that their chief interest is edification, and 
that ability to resist pleasure and pain alike is a valuable 
virtue in a world where action and renunciation are the 
twin keys to happiness. But to deny that pleasure is a 
good and pain an evil is a grotesque affectation. A man 
who without necessity deprived any person of a pleasure 
or imposed on him a pain, would be a contemptible knave, 
and the person so injured would be the first to declare it, 
nor could the highest celestial tribunal, if it was just, 
reverse that sentence. For it suffices that one being, 


however weak, loves or abhors anything, no matter how 
slightly, for that thing to acquire a proportionate value 
which no chorus of contradiction ringing through all the 
spheres can ever wholly abolish. An experience good or 
bad in itself remains so for ever, and its inclusion in a more 
general order of things can only change that totality pro 
portionately to the ingredient absorbed, which will infect 
the mass, so far as it goes, with its own colour. The more 
pleasure a universe can yield, other things being equal, 
the more beneficent and generous is its general nature ; 
the more pains its constitution involves, the darker and 
more malign is its total temper. To deny this would seem 
impossible, yet it is done daily ; for there is nothing people 
will not maintain when they are slaves to superstition ; 
and candour and a sense of justice are, in such a case, the 
first things lost. 



WORLDLY minds bristle with conventional morality (though 
in private they may nurse a vice or two to appease way 
ward nature), and they are rational in everything except 
first principles. They consider the voluptuary a weak 
fool, disgraced and disreputable ; and if they notice the 
spiritual man at all for he is easily ignored they regard 
him as a useless and visionary fellow. Civilization has to 
work algebraically with symbols for known and unknown 
quantities which only in the end resume their concrete 
values, so that the journeymen and vulgar middlemen of 
the world know only conventional goods. They are lost 
in instrumentalities and are themselves only instruments 
in the life of reason. Wealth, station, fame, success of 
some notorious and outward sort, make their standard of 
happiness. Their chosen virtues are industry, good sense, 
probity, conventional piety, and whatever else has acknow 
ledged utility and seemliness. 

In its strictures on pleasure and reverie this Philistia is 
perfectly right. Sensuous living (and I do not mean 


debauchery alone, but the palpitations of any poet without 
art or any mystic without discipline) is not only inconse 
quential and shallow, but dangerous to honour and to 
sincere happiness. When life remains lost in sense or 
reverts to it entirely, humanity itself is atrophied. And 
humanity is tormented and spoilt when, as more often 
happens, a man disbelieving in reason and out of humour 
with his world, abandons his soul to loose whimsies and 
passions that play a quarrelsome game there, like so 
many ill-bred children. Nevertheless, compared with the 
worldling s mental mechanism and rhetoric, the sensual 
ist s soul is a well of wisdom. He lives naturally on 
an animal level and attains a kind of good. He has free 
and concrete pursuits, though they be momentary, and 
he has sincere satisfactions. He is less often corrupt than 
primitive, and even when corrupt he finds some justifica 
tion for his captious existence. He harvests pleasures 
as he goes which, taken intrinsically, may have the depth 
and ideality which nature breathes in all her oracles. His 
experience, for that reason, though disastrous is interesting 
and has some human pathos ; it is easier to make a saint 
out of a libertine than out of a prig. True, the libertine 
is pursued, like the animals, by unforeseen tortures, decay, 
and abandonment, and he is vowed to a total death ; but 
in these respects the worldly man has hardly an advantage. 
The Babels he piles up may indeed survive his person, 
but they are themselves vain and without issue, while his 
brief life has been meantime spent in slavery and his 
mind cramped with cant and foolish ambitions. The 
voluptuary is like some roving creature, browsing on 
nettles and living by chance ; the worldling is like a beast 
of burden, now ill-used and overworked, now fatted, 
stalled, and richly caparisoned. ^Esop might well have 
described their relative happiness in a fable about the 
wild ass and the mule. 

Thus, even if the voluptuary is sometimes a poet and 
the worldling often an honest man, they both lack reason 
so entirely that reflection revolts equally against the life 
of both. Vanity, vanity, is their common epitaph. Now, 
at the soul s christening and initiation into the life of 
reason, the first vow must always be to " renounce the 


pomps and vanities of this wicked world." A person to 
whom this means nothing is one to whom, in the end, 
nothing has meaning. He has not conceived a highest 
good, no ultimate goal is within his horizon, and it has 
never occurred to him to ask what he is living for. With 
all his pompous soberness, the worldly man is funda 
mentally frivolous ; with all his maxims and cant estima 
tions he is radically inane. He conforms to religion without 
suspecting what religion means, not being in the least 
open to such an inquiry. He judges art like a parrot, 
without having ever stopped to evoke an image. He 
preaches about service and duty without any recognition 
of natural demands or any standard of betterment. His 
moral life is one vast anacoluthon in which the final term 
is left out that might have given sense to the whole, one 
vast ellipsis in which custom seems to bridge the chasm left 
between ideas. He denies the values of sense because 
they tempt to truancies from mechanical activity ; the 
values of reason he necessarily ignores because they lie 
beyond his scope. He adheres to conventional maxims 
and material quantitative standards ; his production is 
therefore, as far as he himself is concerned, an essential 
waste and his activity an essential tedium. If at least, 
like the sensualist, he enjoyed the process and expressed 
his fancy in his life, there would be something gained ; and 
this sort of gain, though overlooked in the worldling s 
maxims, all of which have a categorical tone, is really 
what often lends his life some propriety and spirit. Busi 
ness and war and any customary task may come to form, 
so to speak, an organ whose natural function will be just 
that operation, and the most abstract and secondary 
activity, like that of adding figures or reading advertise 
ments, may in this way become the one function proper 
to some soul. There are Nibelungen dwelling by choice 
underground and happy pedants in the upper air. 

Facts are not wanting for these pillars of society to 
take solace in, if they wish to defend their philosophy. 
The time will come, astronomers say, when life will be 
extinct upon this weary planet. All the delights of sense 
and imagination will be over. It is these that will have 
turned out to be vain. But the masses of matter which 


the worldlings have transformed with their machinery, 
and carried from one place to another, will remain to bear 
witness of them. The collocation of atoms will never be 
what it would have been if their feet had less continually 
beaten the earth. They may have the proud happiness of 
knowing that, when nothing that the spirit values endures, 
the earth may still sometimes, because of them, cast a 
slightly different shadow across the craters of the moon. 

The sensualist at least is not worldly, and though his 
nature be atrophied in all its higher part, there is not 
lacking, as we have seen, a certain internal and abstract 
spirituality in his experience. He is a sort of sprightly 
and incidental mystic, treating his varied succession of 
little worlds as the mystic does his monotonous universe. 
Sense, moreover, is capable of many refinements, by which 
physical existence becomes its own reward. In the 
disciplined play of fancy which the fine arts afford, the 
mind s free action justifies itself and becomes intrinsically 
delightful. Science not only exercises in itself the intel 
lectual powers, but assimilates nature to the mind, so that 
all things may nourish it. In love and friendship the 
liberal life extends also to the heart. All these interests, 
which justify themselves by their intrinsic fruits, make 
so many rational episodes and patches in conventional 
life ; but it must be confessed in all candour that these 
are but oases in the desert, and that as the springs of life 
are irrational, so its most vehement and prevalent interests 
remain irrational to the end. When the pleasures of sense 
and art, of knowledge and sympathy, are stretched to the 
utmost, what part will they cover and justify of our 
passions, our industry, our governments, our religion ? 



IN moral reprobation there is often a fanatical element, I 
mean that hatred which an animal may sometimes feel 
for other animals on account of their strange aspect, or 
because their habits put him to serious inconvenience, or 


because these habits, if he himself adopted them, might be 
vicious in him. Such aversion, however, is not a rational 
sentiment. No fault can be justly found with a creature 
merely for not resembling another, or for flourishing in a 
different physical or moral environment. It has been an 
unfortunate consequence of mythical philosophies that 
moral emotions have been stretched to objects with which 
a man has only physical relations, so that the universe has 
been filled with monsters more or less horrible, according 
as the forces they represented were more or less formidable 
to human life. In the same spirit, every experiment in 
civilization has passed for a crime among those engaged 
in some other experiment. The foreigner has seemed an 
insidious rascal, the heretic a pestilent sinner, and any 
material obstacle a literal devil ; while to possess some 
unusual passion, however innocent, has brought obloquy on 
every one unfortunate enough not to be constituted like 
the average of his neighbours. The physical repulsion, how 
ever, which everybody feels to habits and interests which 
he is incapable of sharing, is no part of rational estima 
tion, large as its share may be in the fierce prejudices and 
superstitions which pre-rational morality abounds in. The 
strongest feelings assigned to the conscience are not moral 
feelings at all ; they express merely physical antipathies. 

Toward alien powers a man s true weapon is not 
invective, but skill and strength. An obstacle is an 
obstacle, not a devil ; and even a moral life, when it actually 
exists in a being with hostile activities, is merely a hostile 
power. It is not hostile, however, in so far as it is moral, 
but only in so far as its morality represents a material 
organism, physically incompatible with what the thinker 
has at heart. 

Material conflicts cannot be abolished by reason, because 
reason is powerful only where they have been removed. 
Yet where opposing forces are able mutually to comprehend 
and respect one another, common ideal interests at once 
supervene, and though the material conflict may remain 
irrepressible, it will be overlaid by an intellectual life, 
partly common and unanimous. In this lies the chivalry 
of war, that we acknowledge the right of others to pursue 
ends contrary to our own. Competitors who are able to 


feel this ideal comity, and who leading different lives in 
the flesh lead the same life in imagination, are incited 
by their mutual understanding to rise above that material 
ambition, perhaps gratuitous, that has made them enemies. 
They may ultimately wish to renounce that temporal good 
which deprives them of spiritual goods in truth infinitely 
greater and more appealing to the soul innocence, justice, 
and intelligence. They may prefer an enlarged mind to 
enlarged frontiers, and the comprehension of things foreign 
to the destruction of them. They may even aspire to detach 
ment from those private interests which, as Plato said, do not 
deserve to be taken too seriously ; the fact that we must 
take them seriously being the ignoble part of our condition. 

Of course such renunciations, to be rational, must not 
extend to the whole material basis of life, since some 
physical particularity and efficiency are requisite for 
bringing into being that very rationality which is to turn 
enemies into friends. The need of a material basis for 
spirit is what renders partial war with parts of the world 
the inevitable background of charity and justice. The 
frontiers at which this warfare is waged may, however, 
be pushed back indefinitely. Within the sphere organized 
about a firm and generous life a Roman peace can be 
established. It is not what is assimilated that saps a 
creative will, but what remains outside that ultimately 
invades and disrupts it. In exact proportion to its vigour, 
it wins over former enemies, civilizes the barbarian, and 
even tames the viper, when the eye is masterful and sym 
pathetic enough to dispel hatred and fear. The more 
rational an institution is the less it suffers by making con 
cessions to others ; for these concessions, being just, 
propagate its essence. The ideal commonwealth can 
extend to the limit at which such concessions cease to 
be just and are thereby detrimental. Beyond or below 
that limit strife must continue for physical ascendancy, 
so that the power and the will to be reasonable may not be 
undermined. Reason is an operation in nature, and has 
its root there. Saints cannot arise where there have been 
no warriors, nor philosophers where a prying beast does 
not remain hidden in the depths. 

Perhaps the art of politics, if it were practised scientific- 



ally, might obviate open war, religious enmities, industrial 
competition, and human slavery ; but it would certainly 
not leave a free field for all animals nor for all monstrosities 
in men. Even while admitting the claims of monsters to 
be treated humanely, reason could not suffer them to absorb 
those material resources which might be needed to main 
tain rational society at its highest efficiency. We cannot, 
at this immense distance from a rational social order, 
judge what concessions individual genius would be called 
upon to make in a system of education and government 
in which all attainable goods should be pursued scientifically. 
Concessions would certainly be demanded, if not from 
well-trained wills, still from inevitable instincts, reacting 
on inevitable accidents. There is tragedy in perfection, 
because the universe in which perfection arises is itself 
imperfect. Accidents will always continue to harass the 
most consummate organism ; they will flow in both from the 
outer world and from the interstices, so to speak, of its 
own machinery ; for a rational life touches the irrational 
at its core as well as at its periphery. In both directions 
it meets physical force and can subsist only by exercising 
physical force in return. The range of rational ethics is 
limited to the intermediate political zone, in which exist 
ences have attained some degree of natural unanimity. 

It should be added, perhaps, that the frontiers between 
moral and physical action are purely notional. Real 
existences do not lie wholly on one or the other side of 
them. Every man, every material object, has moral 
affinities enveloping an indomitable vital nucleus or brute 
personal kernel ; this moral essence is enveloped in turn 
by untraceable relations, radiating to infinity over the 
natural world. The stars enter society by the light and 
knowledge they afford, the time they keep, and the orna 
ment they lavish ; but they are mere dead weights in their 
substance and cosmological puzzles in their destiny. You 
and I possess manifold ideal bonds in the interests we 
share ; but each of us has his poor body and his irremedi 
able, incommunicable dreams. Beyond the little span of 
his foresigth and love, each is merely a physical agency, 
preparing the way quite irresponsibly for undreamt-of 
revolutions and alien lives. 




THE inertia s which physics registers in the first law of 
motion, natural history and psychology call habit. In 
society it takes the form of custom, which when codified 
is called law and when enforced is called government. 
Government is the political representative of a natural 
equilibrium, of custom, of inertia ; it is by no means a 
representative of reason. But like any mechanical com 
plication it may become rational, and many of its forms 
and operations may be defended on rational grounds. 

Suppose a cold and hungry savage, failing to find berries 
and game enough in the woods, should descend into some 
meadow where a flock of sheep were grazing and pounce 
upon a lame lamb which could not run away with the 
others, tear its flesh, suck up its blood, and dress himself 
in its skin. All this could not be called an affair under 
taken in the sheep s interest. And yet it might well 
conduce to their interest in the end. For the savage, 
finding himself soon hungry again, and insufficiently warm 
in that scanty garment, might attack the flock a second 
time, and thereby begin to accustom himself, and also 
his delighted family, to a new and more substantial sort 
of raiment and diet. Suppose, now, a pack of wolves, 
or a second savage, or a disease should attack those unhappy 
sheep. Would not their primeval enemy defend them ? 
Would he not have identified himself with their interests 
to this extent, that their total extinction or discomfiture 
would alarm him also ? And in so far as he provided for 
their well-being, would he not have become a good shepherd? 
If, now, some philosophic wether, a lover of his kind, 
reasoned with his fellows upon the change in their con 
dition, he might shudder indeed at those early episodes 
and at the contribution of lambs and fleeces which would 
not cease to be levied by the new government ; but he 
might also consider that such a contribution was nothing 
in comparison with what was formerly exacted by wolves, 
diseases, frosts, and casual robbers, when the flock was 


much smaller than it had now grown to be, and much less 
able to withstand decimation. And he might even have 
conceived an admiration for the remarkable wisdom and 
beauty of that great shepherd, dressed in such a wealth 
of wool ; and he might remember pleasantly some occa 
sional caress received from him and the daily trough 
filled with water by his providential hand. And he might 
not be far from maintaining not only the rational origin, 
but the divine right of shepherds. 

Such a savage enemy, incidentally turned into a useful 
master, is called a conqueror or king. His government is 
nothing but a chronic raid, mitigated by the desire to 
leave the inhabitants prosperous enough to be continually 
despoiled afresh. At first an army is simply a ravenous 
and lusty horde quartered in a conquered country ; yet the 
cost of such an incubus may come to be regarded as an 
insurance against further attack, and so what is in its 
real basis an inevitable burden resulting from a chance 
balance of forces may be justified in after-thought as a 
rational device for defensive purposes. Such an ulterior 
justification has nothing to do, however, with the causes 
that maintain armies or military policies : and accordingly 
those virginal minds that think things originated in the 
uses they may have acquired, have frequent cause to be 
pained and perplexed at the abuses and over-development 
of militarism. The constant compensation tyranny brings, 
which keeps it from at once exhausting its victims, is the 
silence it imposes on their private squabbles. One distant 
universal enemy may be less oppressive than a thousand 
unchecked pilferers and plotters at home. 


To fight is a radical instinct ; if men have nothing else to 
fight over they will fight over words, fancies, or women, 
or they will fight because they dislike each other s looks, or 
because they have met walking in opposite directions. 
To knock a thing down, especially if it is cocked at an 

WAR 261 

arrogant angle, is a deep delight to the blood. To fight 
for a reason and in a calculating spirit is something your 
true warrior despises ; even a coward might screw his 
courage up to such a reasonable conflict. The joy and 
glory of fighting lie in its pure spontaneity and consequent 
generosity ; you are not fighting for gain, but for sport and 
for victory. Victory, no doubt, has its fruits for the victor. 
If fighting were not a possible means of livelihood the 
bellicose instinct could never have established itself in 
any long-lived race. A few men can live on plunder, just 
as there is room in the world for some beasts of prey ; 
other men are reduced to living on industry, just as there 
are diligent bees, ants, and herbivorous kine. But victory 
need have no good fruits for the people whose army 
is victorious. That it sometimes does so is an ulterior 
and blessed circumstance hardly to be reckoned upon. 

Since barbarism has its pleasures it naturally has its 
apologists. There are panegyrists of war who say that 
without a periodical bleeding a race decays and loses its 
manhood. Experience is directly opposed to this shameless 
assertion. It is war that wastes a nation s wealth, chokes 
its industries, kills its flower, narrows its sympathies, 
condemns it to be governed by adventurers, and leaves the 
puny, deformed, and unmanly to breed the next generation. 
Internecine war, foreign and civil, brought about the greatest 
set-back which the life of reason has ever suffered ; it 
exterminated the Greek and Italian aristocracies. Instead 
of being descended from heroes, modern nations are 
descended from slaves ; and it is not their bodies only 
that show it. After a long peace, if the conditions of life 
are propitious, we observe a people s energies bursting 
their barriers ; they become aggressive on the strength 
they have stored up in their remote and unchecked develop 
ment. It is the unmutilated race, fresh from the struggle 
with nature (in which the best survive, while in war it is 
often the best that perish), that descends victoriously into 
the arena of nations and conquers disciplined armies at 
the first blow, becomes the military aristocracy of the next 
epoch and is itself ultimately sapped and decimated by 
luxury and battle, and merged at last into the ignoble 
conglomerate beneath. Then, perhaps, in some other 


virgin country a genuine humanity is again found, capable 
of victory because unbled by war. To call war the soil of 
courage and virtue is like calling debauchery the soil of love. 

Blind courage is an animal virtue indispensable in a world 
full of dangers and evils where a certain insensibility and 
dash are requisite to skirt the precipice without vertigo. 
Such animal courage seems therefore beautiful rather than 
desperate or cruel, and being the lowest and most instinctive 
of virtues it is the one most widely and sincerely admired. 
In the form of steadiness under risks rationally taken, 
and perseverance so long as there is a chance of success, 
courage is a true virtue ; but it ceases to be one when the 
love of danger, a useful passion when danger is unavoidable, 
begins to lead men into evils which it was unnecessary to 
face. Bravado, provocativeness, and a gambler s instinct, 
with a love of hitting hard for the sake of exercise, is a 
temper which ought already to be counted among the 
vices rather than the virtues of man. To delight in war 
is a merit in the soldier, a dangerous quality in the captain, 
and a positive crime in the statesman. 

The panegyrist of war places himself on the lowest 
level on which a moralist or patriot can stand and shows 
as great a want of refined feeling as of right reason. For 
the glories of war are all blood-stained, delirious, and 
infected with crime ; the combative instinct is a savage 
prompting by which one man s good is found in another s 
evil. The existence of such a contradiction in the moral 
world is the original sin of nature, whence flows every 
other wrong. He is a willing accomplice of that perversity 
in things who delights in another s discomfiture or in his 
own, and craves the blind tension of plunging into danger 
without reason, or the idiot s pleasure in facing a pure 
chance. To find joy in another s trouble is, as man is 
constituted, not unnatural, though it is wicked ; and to 
find joy in one s own trouble, though it be madness, is not 
yet impossible for man. These are the chaotic depths of 
that dreaming nature out of which humanity has tc 



PATRIOTISM is a form of piety. It is right to prefer our 
own country to all others because we are children and 
citizens before we can be travellers or philosophers. 
Specific character is a necessary point of origin for universal 
relations : a pure nothing can have no radiation and no 
scope. It is no accident for the soul to be embodied : 
her very essence is to express and bring to fruition the 
functions and resources of the body. Its instincts sustain 
her ideals and its relations her world. A native country 
is a sort of second body, another enveloping organism to 
give the will definition. A specific inheritance strengthens 
the soul. Cosmopolitanism has doubtless its place, because 
a man may well cultivate in himself, and represent in his 
nation, affinities to other peoples, and such assimilation 
to them as is compatible with personal integrity and 
clearness of purpose. Plasticity to things foreign need not 
be inconsistent with happiness and utility at home. But 
happiness and utility are possible nowhere to a man who 
represents nothing and who looks out on the world without 
a plot of his own to stand on, either on earth or in heaven. 
He wanders from place to place, a voluntary exile, always 
querulous, always uneasy, always alone. His very criticisms 
express no ideal. His experience is without sweetness, 
without cumulative fruits, and his children, if he has them, 
are without morality. For reason and happiness are like 
other flowers they wither when plucked. On the other 
hand, to be always harping on nationality is to convert 
what should be a recognition of natural conditions into a 
ridiculous pride in one s own oddities. Nature has hidden 
the roots of things, and though botany must now and then 
dig them up for the sake of comprehension, their place is 
still under ground. A man s feet must be planted in his 
country, but his eyes should survey the world. 

Where parties and governments are bad, as they are 
in most ages and countries, it makes practically no difference 
to a community, apart from local ravages, whether its own 


army or the enemy s is victorious in war, nor does it really 
affect any man s welfare whether the party he happens to 
belong to is in office or not. These issues concern, in such 
cases, only the army itself, whose lives and fortunes are at 
stake, or the official classes, who lose their places when their 
leaders fall from power. The private citizen in any event 
continues in such countries to pay a maximum of taxes 
and to suffer, in all his private interests, a maximum of 
vexation and neglect. Nevertheless, because he has some 
son at the front, some cousin in the government, or some 
historical sentiment for the flag and the nominal essence of 
his country, the oppressed subject will glow like the rest 
with patriotic ardour, and will decry as dead to duty and 
honour any one who points out how perverse is this helpless 
allegiance to a government representing no public interest. 

In proportion as governments become good and begin 
to operate for the general welfare, patriotism itself becomes 
representative and an expression of reason ; but just in 
the same measure does hostility to that government on the 
part of foreigners become groundless and perverse. A 
competitive patriotism involves ill-will toward all other 
states and a secret and constant desire to see them thrashed 
and subordinated. It follows that a good government, 
while it justifies this governmental patriotism in its subjects, 
disallows it in all other men. For a good government is 
an international benefit, and the prosperity and true great 
ness of any country is a boon sooner or later to the whole 
world ; it may eclipse alien governments and draw away 
local populations or industries, but it necessarily benefits 
alien individuals in so far as it is allowed to affect them at all. 

Animosity against a well-governed country is therefore 
madness. A rational patriotism would rather take the 
form of imitating and supporting that so-called foreign 
country, and even, if practicable, of fusing with it. The 
invidious and aggressive form of patriotism, though 
inspired generally only by local conceit, would neverthe 
less be really justified if such conceit happened to be well 
grounded. A dream of universal predominance visiting 
a truly virtuous and intelligent people would be an aspira 
tion toward universal beneficence. For every man who 
is governed at all must be governed by others ; the point 


is, that the others, in ruling him, shall help him to be 
himself and give scope to his congenial activities. When 
coerced in that direction he obeys a force which, in the 
best sense of the word, represents him, and consequently 
he is truly free ; nor could he be ruled by a more native 
and rightful authority than by one that divines and satisfies 
his true necessities. 

A man s nature is not, however, a quantity or quality 
fixed unalterably and a priori. As breeding and selection 
improve a race, so every experience modifies the individual 
and offers a changed basis for future experience. The lan 
guage, religion, education, and prejudices acquired in youth 
bias character and predetermine the directions in which 
development may go on. A child might possibly change 
his country ; a man can only wish that he might change it. 
Therefore, among the true interests which a government 
should represent, nationality itself must be included. 

Mechanical forces, we must not weary of repeating, do 
not come merely to vitiate the ideal ; they come to create 
it. The historical background of life is a part of its sub 
stance, and the ideal can never grow independently of its 
spreading roots. A sanctity hangs about the sources of 
our being, whether physical, social, or imaginary. The 
ancients who kissed the earth on returning to their native 
country expressed nobly and passionately what every man 
feels for those regions and those traditions whence the sap 
of his own life has been sucked in. There is a profound 
friendliness in whatever revives primordial habits, however 
they may have been overlaid with later sophistications. 
For this reason the homelier words of a mother tongue, 
the more familiar assurances of an ancestral religion, and 
the very savour of childhood s dishes, remain always a 
potent means to awaken emotion. Such ingrained in 
fluences, in their vague totality, make a man s true 
nationality. A government, in order to represent the 
general interests of its subjects, must move in sympathy 
with their habits and memories ; it must respect their 
idiosyncrasy for the same reason that it protects their 
lives. If parting from a single object of love be, as it is, 
true dying, how much more would a shifting of all the 
affections be death to the soul. 


Man is certainly an animal that, when he lives at all, 
lives for ideals. Something must be found to occupy 
his imagination, to raise pleasure and pain into love 
and hatred, and change the prosaic alternative between 
comfort and discomfort into the tragic one between happi 
ness and sorrow. Now that the hue of daily adventure is 
so dull, when religion for the most part is so vague and 
accommodating, when even war is a vast impersonal 
business, nationality seems to have slipped into the place 
of honour. It has become the one eloquent, public, 
intrepid illusion. Illusion, I mean, when it is taken foi 
an ultimate good or a mystical essence, for of course 
nationality is a fact. People speak some particular 
language and are very uncomfortable where another is 
spoken or where their own is spoken differently. They 
have habits, judgments, assumptions to which they are 
wedded, and a society where all this is unheard of shocks 
them and puts them at a galling disadvantage. To ignorant 
people the foreigner as such is ridiculous, unless he is 
superior to them in numbers or prestige, when he becomes 
hateful. It is natural for a man to like to live at home, 
and to live long elsewhere without a sense of exile is not 
good for his moral integrity. It is right to feel a greater 
kinship and affection for what lies nearest to oneself. 
But this necessary fact and even duty of nationality is 
accidental ; like age or sex it is a physical fatality which 
can be made the basis of specific and comely virtues ; but 
it is not an end to pursue, or a flag to flaunt, or a privilege 
not balanced by a thousand incapacities. Yet of this 
distinction our contemporaries tend to make an idol, 
perhaps because it is the only distinction they feel they 
have left. 


A PEOPLE once having become industrial will hardly be 
happy if sent back to Arcadia ; it will have formed busy 
habits which it cannot relax without tedium ; it wilj have 
developed a restlessness and avidity which will crave 


matter, like any other kind of hunger. Every experiment 
in living qualifies the initial possibilities of life, and the 
moralist would reckon without his host if he did not allow 
for the change which forced exercise makes in instinct, 
adjusting it more or less to extant conditions originally, 
perhaps, unwelcome. It is too late for the highest good 
to prescribe flying for quadrupeds or peace for the sea 
waves. Knowledge of what is possible is the beginning 
of happiness. 

The acceptable side of industrialism, which is supposed 
to be inspired exclusively by utility, is not utility at all 
but pure achievement. If we wish to do such an age 
justice we must judge it as we should a child and praise 
its feats without inquiring after its purposes. That is its 
own spirit : a spirit dominant at the present time, particu 
larly in America, where industrialism appears most free 
from alloy. There is a curious delight in turning things 
over, changing their shape, discovering their possibilities, 
making of them some new contrivance. Use, in these 
experimental minds, as in nature, is only incidental. There 
is an irrational creative impulse, a zest in novelty, in pro 
gression, in beating the other man, or, as they say, in break 
ing the record. There is also a fascination in seeing the 
world unbosom itself of ancient secrets, obey man s coaxing, 
and take on unheard-of shapes. The highest building, the 
largest steamer, the fastest train, the book reaching the 
widest circulation have, in America, a clear title to respect. 
When the just functions of things are as yet not discrimin 
ated, the superlative in any direction seems naturally 
admirable. Again, many possessions, if they do not make 
a man better, are at least expected to make his children 
happier ; and this pathetic hope is behind many exertions. 
An experimental materialism, spontaneous and divorced 
from reason and from everything useful, is also confused 
in some minds with traditional duties ; and a school of 
popular hierophants is not lacking that turns it into a sort 
of religion and perhaps calls it idealism. Impulse is more 
visible in all this than purpose, imagination more than 
judgment ; but it is pleasant for the moment to abound 
in invention and effort and to let the future cash the 



IDEAL patriotism is not secured when each man, although 
without natural eminence, pursues his private interests. 
What renders man an imaginative and moral being is that 
in society he gives new aims to his life which could not 
have existed in solitude : the aims of friendship, religion, 
science, and art. All these aims, in a well-knit state, are 
covered by the single passion of patriotism ; and then a 
conception of one s country, its history and mission, becomes 
the touchstone of every ideal impulse. Democracy requires 
this kind of patriotism in everybody ; so that if public 
duty is not to become a sacrifice imposed on the many for 
the sake of the few, as in aristocracy, the reason can only 
be that the many covet, appreciate, and appropriate their 
country s ideal glories, quite as much as the favoured 
class ever could in any aristocracy. 

Is this possible ? What might happen if the human 
race were immensely improved and exalted there is as yet 
no saying ; but experience has given no example of effi 
cacious devotion to communal ideals except in small cities, 
held together by close military and religious bonds and 
having no important relations to anything external. Even 
this antique virtue was short-lived and sadly thwarted 
by private and party passion. Where public spirit has 
held best, as at Sparta or (to take a very different type of 
communal passion) among the Jesuits, it has been paid 
for by a notable lack of spontaneity and wisdom ; such 
inhuman devotion to an arbitrary end has made these 
societies odious. We may say, therefore, that a zeal 
sufficient to destroy selfishness is, as men are now con 
stituted, worse than selfishness itself. In pursuing prizes 
for themselves people benefit their fellows more than in 
pursuing such narrow and irrational ideals as alone seem 
to be powerful in the world. To ambition, to the love 
of wealth and honour, to love of a liberty which meant 
opportunity for experiment and adventure, we owe what 
ever benefits we have derived from Greece and Rome, from 


Italy and England. It is doubtful whether a society 
which offered no personal prizes would inspire effort ; and 
it is still more doubtful whether that effort, if actually 
stimulated by education, would be beneficent. For an 
indoctrinated and collective virtue turns easily to fanati 
cism ; it imposes irrational sacrifices prompted by some 
abstract principle or habit once, perhaps, useful ; but 
that convention soon becomes superstitious and ceases to 
represent general human excellence. 

Individualism is in one sense the only possible ideal ; 
for whatever social order may be most valuable can be 
valuable only for its effect on conscious individuals. Man 
is, of course, a social animal and needs society, first that he 
may come safely into being, and then that he may have 
something interesting to do. But society itself is no animal 
and has neither instincts, interests, nor ideals. To talk of 
such things is either to speak metaphorically or to think 
mythically ; and myths, the more currency they acquire, 
pass the more easily into superstitions. It would be a gross 
and pedantic superstition to venerate any form of society 
in itself, apart from the safety, breadth, or sweetness which 
it lent to individual happiness. If the individual may be 
justly subordinated to the state, not merely for the sake of 
a future freer generation, but permanently and in the ideal 
society, the reason is simply that such subordination is a 
part of a man s natural devotion to things rational and 
impersonal, in the presence of which alone he can be per 
sonally happy. Society in its future and in its past is a 
natural object of interest like art or science ; it exists, like 
them, because only when lost in such rational objects can 
a free soul be active and immortal. But all these ideals 
are terms in some actual life, not alien ends, important to 
nobody, to which, notwithstanding, everybody is to be 


THE Jews, without dreaming of any inherent curse in being 
finite, had found themselves often in the sorest material 
straits. They hoped, like all primitive peoples, that relief 


might come by propitiating the deity. They knew that 
the sins of the fathers were visited upon the children even 
to the third and fourth generation. They had accepted 
this idea of joint responsibility and vicarious atonement, 
turning in their unphilosophical way this law of nature 
into a principle of justice. Meantime the failure of all 
their cherished ambitions had plunged them into a peni 
tential mood. Though in fact pious and virtuous to a 
fault, they still looked for repentance their own or the 
world s to save them. This redemption was to be ac 
complished in the Hebrew spirit, through long-suffering 
and devotion to the Law, with the Hebrew solidarity, by 
vicarious attribution of merits and demerits within the 
household of the faith. 

Such a way of conceiving redemption was far more 
dramatic, poignant, and individual than the Neo-Platonic ; 
hence it was far more popular and better fitted to be a 
nucleus for religious devotion. However much, therefore, 
Christianity may have insisted on renouncing the world, 
the flesh, and the devil, it always kept in the background 
this perfectly Jewish and pre-rational craving for a delect 
able promised land. The journey might be long and through 
a desert, but milk and honey were to flow in the oasis 
beyond. Had renunciation been fundamental or revulsion 
from nature complete, there would have been no much- 
trumpeted last judgment and no material kingdom of 
heaven. The renunciation was only temporary and partial ; 
the revulsion was only against incidental evils. Despair 
touched nothing but the present order of the world, though 
at first it took the extreme form of calling for its immediate 
destruction. This was the sort of despair and renuncia 
tion that lay at the bottom of Christian repentance ; while 
hope in a new order of this world, or of one very like it, 
lay at the bottom of Christian joy. A temporary sacrifice, it 
was thought, and a partial mutilation would bring the spirit 
miraculously into a fresh paradise. The pleasures nature 
had grudged or punished, grace was to offer as a reward for 
faith and patience. The earthly life which was vain as a 
possession was to be profitable as a trial. Normal experience, 
appropriate exercise for the spirit, would thereafter begin. 

Christianity is thus a system of postponed rationalism, 


a rationalism intercepted by a supernatural version of the 
conditions of happiness. Its moral principle is reason 
the only moral principle there is ; its motive power is the 
impulse and natural hope to be and to be happy. Christi 
anity merely renews and reinstates these universal prin 
ciples after a first disappointment and a first assault of 
despair, by opening up new vistas of accomplishment, new 
qualities and measures of success. The Christian field of 
action being a world of grace enveloping the world of 
nature, many transitory reversals of acknowledged values 
may take place in its code. Poverty, chastity, humility, 
obedience, self-sacrifice, ignorance, sickness, and dirt may 
all acquire a religious worth which reason, in its direct 
application, might scarcely have found in them ; yet these 
reversed appreciations are merely incidental to a secret 
rationality, and are justified on the ground that human 
nature, as now found, is corrupt and needs to be purged 
and transformed before it can safely manifest its congenital 
instincts and become again an authoritative criterion of 
values. In the kingdom of God men would no longer need 
to do penance, for life there would be truly natural and 
there the soul would be at last in her native sphere. 

This submerged optimism exists in Christianity, being 
a heritage from the Jews ; and those Protestant com 
munities that have rejected the pagan and Platonic elements 
that overlaid it have little difficulty in restoring it to 
prominence. Not, however, without abandoning the soul 
of the gospel ; for the soul of the gospel, though expressed 
in the language of Messianic hopes, is really post-rational. 
It was not to marry and be given in marriage, or to sit on 
thrones, or to unravel metaphysical mysteries, or to enjoy 
any of the natural delights renounced in this life, that 
Christ summoned his disciples to abandon all they had and 
to follow him. There was surely a deeper peace in his 
self-surrender. It was not a new thing even among the 
Jews to use the worldly promises of their exoteric religion 
as symbols for inner spiritual revolutions ; and the change 
of heart involved in genuine Christianity was not a fresh 
excitation of gaudy hopes, nor a new sort of utilitarian, 
temporary austerity. It was an emptying of the will, in 
respect to all human desires, so that a perfect charity and 


contemplative justice, falling like the Father s gifts un 
grudgingly on the whole creation, might take the place of 
ambition, petty morality, and earthly desires. It was a 
renunciation which, at least in Christ himself and in his 
more spiritual disciples, did not spring from disappointed 
illusion or lead to other unregenerate illusions even more 
sure to be dispelled by events. It sprang rather from 
a native speculative depth, a natural affinity to the divine 
fecundity, serenity, and sadness of the world. It was the 
spirit of prayer, the kindliness and insight which a pure 
soul can fetch from contemplation. 

This mystical detachment, supervening on the dogged 
old Jewish optimism, gave Christianity a double aspect, 
and had some curious consequences in later times. Those 
who were inwardly convinced as most religious minds 
were under the Roman Empire that all earthly -things 
were vanity, and that they plunged the soul into an abyss 
of nothingness if not of torment, could, in view of brighter 
possibilities in another world, carry their asceticism and 
their cult of suffering farther than a purely negative system, 
like the Buddhistic, would have allowed. For a discipline 
that is looked upon as merely temporary can contradict 
nature more boldly than one intended to take nature s 
place. The hope of unimaginable benefits to ensue could 
drive religion to greater frenzies than it could have fallen 
into if its object had been merely to silence the will. 
Christianity persecuted, tortured, and burned. Like a 
hound it tracked the very scent of heresy. It kindled 
wars, and nursed furious hatreds and ambitions. It 
sanctified, quite like Mohammedanism, extermination and 
tyranny. All this would have been impossible if, like 
Buddhism, it had looked only to peace and the liberation 
of souls. It looked beyond ; it dreamt of infinite blisses 
and crowns it should be crowned with before an electrified 
universe and an applauding God. These were rival baits 
to those which the world fishes with, and were snapped at, 
when seen, with no less avidity. Man, far from being freed 
from his natural passions, was plunged into artificial ones 
quite as violent and much more disappointing. Buddhism 
had tried to quiet a sick world with anaesthetics ; Christi 
anity sought to purge it- with fire. 



THE most plausible evidence which a revealed doctrine can 
give of its truth is the beauty and rationality of its moral 
corollaries. It is instructive to observe that the congruity 
of a gospel with natural reason and common humanity is 
regarded as the decisive mark of its supernatural origin. 
Indeed, were inspiration not the faithful echo of plain 
conscience and vulgar experience, there would be no means 
of distinguishing it from madness. Whatever poetic idea 
a prophet starts with, in whatever intuition or analogy he 
finds a hint of salvation, it is altogether necessary that 
he should hasten to interpret his oracle in such a manner 
that it may sanction without disturbing the system of indis 
pensable natural duties, although these natural duties, by 
being attached artificially to supernatural dogmas, may 
take on a different tone, justify themselves by a different 
rhetoric, and possibly suffer real transformation in some 
minor particulars. Systems of post-rational morality are 
not original works : they are versions of natural morality 
translated into different metaphysical languages, each of 
which adds its peculiar flavour, its own genius and poetry, 
to the plain sense of the common original. 

Faith in the supernatural is a desperate wager made 
by man at the lowest ebb of his fortunes ; it is as far as 
possible from being the source of that normal vitality which 
subsequently, if his fortunes mend, he may gradually 
recover. Under the same religion, with the same post 
humous alternatives and mystic harmonies hanging about 
them, different races, or the same race at different periods, 
will manifest the most opposite moral characteristics. 
Belief in a thousand hells and heavens will not lift the 
apathetic out of apathy or hold back the passionate from 
passion ; while a newly planted and ungalled community, 
in blessed forgetfulness of rewards or punishments, of 
cosmic needs or celestial sanctions, will know how to live 
cheerily and virtuously for life s own sake, putting to shame 
those thin vaticinations. To hope for a second life, to be 


had gratis, merely because the present life has lost its 
savour, or to dream of a different world, because nature 
seems too intricate and unfriendly, is in the end merely 
to play with words ; since the supernatural has no per 
manent aspect or charm except in so far as it expresses 
man s earthly situation and points to the satisfaction of 
his natural interests. What keeps supernatural morality, 
in its better forms, within the limits of sanity is the fact 
that it reinstates in practice, under novel associations and 
for motives ostensibly different, the very natural virtues 
and hopes which, when seen to be merely natural, it had 
thrown over with contempt. The new dispensation itself, 
if treated in the same spirit, would be no less contemptible ; 
and what makes it genuinely esteemed is the restored 
authority of those human ideals which it expresses in a 

The extent of this moral restoration, the measure in 
which nature is suffered to bloom in the sanctuary, 
determines the value of post-rational moralities. They 
may preside over a good life, personal or communal, when 
their symbolism, though cumbrous, is not deceptive ; 
when the supernatural machinery brings man back to 
nature through mystical circumlocutions. The peculiar 
accent and emphasis which it will not cease to impose 
on the obvious lessons of life need not then repel the 
wisest intelligence. True sages and true civilizations can 
accordingly flourish under a dispensation nominally super 
natural ; for that supernaturalism may have become a 
mere form in which imagination clothes a rational and 
humane wisdom. 

People who speak only one language have some difficulty 
in conceiving that things should be expressed just as well 
in some other ; a prejudice which does not necessarily 
involve their mistaking words for things or being practically 
misled by their inflexible vocabulary. So it constantly 
happens that supernatural systems, when they have long 
prevailed, are defended by persons who have only natural 
interests at heart ; because these persons lack that 
speculative freedom and dramatic imagination which would 
allow them to conceive other moulds for morality and 
happiness than those to which a respectable tradition has 


accustomed them. Sceptical statesmen and academic 
scholars sometimes suffer from this kind of numbness ; 
it is intelligible that they should mistake the forms of 
culture for its principle, especially when their genius is 
not original and their chosen function is to defend and 
propagate the local traditions in which their whole training 
has immersed them. Indeed, in the political field, such 
concern for decaying myths may have a pathetic justifica 
tion ; for however little the life or dignity of man may be 
jeopardized by changes in language, languages themselves 
are not indifferent things. They may be closely bound up 
with the peculiar history and spirit of nations, and their dis 
appearance, however necessary and on the whole propitious, 
may mark the end of some stirring chapter in the world s 
history. Those whose vocation is not philosophy and 
whose country is not the world may be pardoned for 
wishing to retard the migrations of spirit, and for looking 
forward with apprehension to a future in which their 
private enthusiasms will not be understood. 

The value of post-rational morality, then, depends on a 
double conformity on its part with the life of reason. In 
the first place some natural impulse must be retained, 
some partial ideal must still be trusted and pursued by the 
prophet of redemption. In the second place the intuition 
thus gained and exclusively put forward must be made 
the starting-point for a restored natural morality. Other 
wise the faith appealed to would be worthless in its opera 
tion, as well as fanciful in its basis, and it could never 
become a mould for thought or action in a civilized society. 


PESSIMISM, and all the moralities founded on despair, are 
post-rational. They are the work of men who more or less 
explicitly have conceived the life of reason, tried it at 
least imaginatively, and found it wanting. These systems 
are a refuge from an intolerable situation : they are ex 
periments in redemption. As a matter of fact, animal 



instincts and natural standards of excellence are never 
eluded in them, for no moral experience has other terms ; 
but the part of the natural ideal which remains active 
appears in opposition to all the rest and, by an intelligible 
illusion, seems to be no part of that natural ideal because, 
compared with the commoner passions on which it reacts, 
it represents some simpler or more attenuated hope the 
appeal to some very humble or very much chastened 
satisfaction, or to an utter change in the conditions of life. 

Post-rational morality thus constitutes, in intention 
if not in fact, a criticism of all experience. It thinks it 
does not make, like pre-rational morality, an arbitrary 
selection from among co-ordinate precepts. It is an 
effort to subordinate all precepts to one, that points to 
some single eventual good. For it occurs to the founders of 
these systems that by estranging oneself from the world, 
or resting in the moment s pleasure, or mortifying the 
passions, or enduring all sufferings in patience, or studying 
a perfect conformity with the course of affairs, one may 
gain admission to some sort of residual mystical paradise ; 
and this thought, once conceived, is published as a revela 
tion and accepted as a panacea. It becomes in consequence 
(for such is the force of nature) the foundation of elaborate 
institutions and elaborate philosophies, into which the 
contents of the worldly life are gradually reintroduced. 

When human life is in an acute crisis, the sick dreams 
that visit the soul are the only evidence of her continued 
existence. Through them she still envisages a good ; and 
when the delirium passes and the normal world gradually 
re-establishes itself in her regard, she attributes her 
regeneration to the ministry of those phantoms, a regenera 
tion due, in truth, to the restored nutrition and circulation 
within her. In this way post-rational systems, though 
founded originally on despair, in a later age that has 
forgotten its disillusions may come to pose as the only 
possible basis of morality. The philosophers addicted to 
each sect, and brought up under its influence, may exhaust 
criticism and sophistry to show that all faith and effort 
would be vain unless their particular nostrum was accepted ; 
and so a curious party philosophy arises in which, after 
discrediting nature and reason in general, the sectary 


puts forward some mythical echo of reason and nature as 
the one saving and necessary truth. The positive substance 
of such a doctrine is accordingly pre-rational and perhaps 
crudely superstitious ; but it is introduced and nominally 
supported by a formidable indictment of physical and 
moral science, so that the wretched idol ultimately offered 
to our worship acquires a spurious halo and an imputed 
majesty by being raised on a pedestal of infinite despair. 


THERE are a myriad conflicts in practice and in thought, 
conflicts between rival possibilities, knocking inopportunely 
and in vain at the door of existence. Owing to the initial 
disorganization of things, some demands continually 
prove to be incompatible with others arising no less 
naturally. Reason in such cases imposes real and irrepar 
able sacrifices, but it brings a stable consolation if its 
discipline is accepted. Decay, for instance, is a moral and 
aesthetic evil ; but being a natural necessity it can become 
the basis for pathetic and magnificent harmonies, when 
once imagination is adjusted to it. The hatred of change 
and death is ineradicable while life lasts, since it expresses 
that self-sustaining organization in a creature which we 
call its soul ; yet this hatred of change and death is not 
so deeply seated in the nature of things as are death and 
change themselves, for the flux is deeper than the ideal. 
Discipline may attune our higher and more adaptable part 
to the harsh conditions of existence, and the resulting 
sentiment, being the only one which can be maintained 
successfully, will express the greatest satisfactions which 
can be reached, though not the greatest that might be 
conceived or desired. To be interested in the changing 
seasons is, in this middling zone, a happier state of mind 
than to be hopelessly in love with spring. Wisdom 
discovers these possible accommodations, as circumstances 
impose them ; and education ought to prepare men to 
accept them. 


It is for want of education and discipline that a man 
so often insists petulantly on his random tastes, instead of 
cultivating those which might find some satisfaction in the 
world and might produce in him some pertinent culture. 
Untutored self-assertion may even lead him to deny some 
fact that should have been patent, and plunge him into 
needless calamity. His Utopias cheat him in the end, 
if indeed the barbarous taste he has indulged in clinging 
to them does not itself lapse before the dream is half 
formed. So men have feverishly conceived a heaven only 
to find it insipid, and a hell to find it ridiculous. Theodicies 
that were to demonstrate an absolute cosmic harmony 
have turned the universe into a tyrannous nightmare, 
from which we are glad to awake again in this unintentional 
and somewhat tractable world. Thus the fancies of 
effeminate poets in violating science are false to the highest 
art, and the products of sheer confusion, instigated by the 
love of beauty, turn out to be hideous. A rational severity 
in respect to art simply weeds the garden ; it expresses 
a mature aesthetic choice and opens the way to supreme 
artistic achievements. To keep beauty in its place is to 
make all things beautiful. 


IF pleasure, because it is commonly a result of satisfied 
instinct, may by a figure of speech be called the aim of 
impulse, happiness, by a like figure, may be called the aim 
of reason. The direct aim of reason is harmony ; yet 
harmony, when made to rule in life, gives reason a noble 
satisfaction which we call happiness. Happiness is im 
possible and even inconceivable to a mind without scope 
and without pause, a mind driven by craving, pleasure, 
and fear. The moralists who speak disparagingly of 
happiness are less sublime than they think. In truth 
their philosophy is too lightly ballasted, too much fed on 
prejudice and quibbles, for happiness to fall within its 
range. Happiness implies resource and security ; it can 
be achieved only by discipline. Your intuitive moralist 


rejects discipline, at least discipline of the conscience ; 
and he is punished by having no lien on wisdom. He 
trusts to the clash of blind forces in collision, being one of 
them himself. He demands that virtue should be partisan 
and unjust ; and he dreams of crushing the adversary in 
some physical cataclysm. 

Such groping enthusiasm is often innocent and ro 
mantic ; it captivates us with its youthful spell. But 
it has no structure with which to resist the shocks of 
fortune, which it goes out so jauntily to meet. It turns 
only too often into vulgarity and worldliness. A snow- 
flake is soon a smudge, and there is a deeper purity in the 
diamond. Happiness is hidden from a free and casual will ; 
it belongs rather to one chastened by a long education and 
unfolded in an atmosphere of sacred and perfected institu 
tions. It is discipline that renders men rational and 
capable of happiness, by suppressing without hatred what 
needs to be suppressed to attain a beautiful naturalness. 
Discipline discredits the random pleasures of illusion, 
hope, and triumph, and substitutes those which are self- 
reproductive, perennial, and serene, because they express 
an equilibrium maintained with reality. So long as the 
result of endeavour is partly unforeseen and unintentional, 
so long as the will is partly blind, the life of reason is 
still swaddled in ignominy and the animal barks in the 
midst of human discourse. Wisdom and happiness consist 
in having recast natural energies in the furnace of experi 
ence. Nor has this experience merely a repressive force. 
It enshrines the successful expressions of spirit as well 
as the shocks and vetoes of circumstance ; it enables a 
man to know himself in knowing the world and to dis 
cover his ideal by the very ring, true or false, of fortune s 

It seldom occurs to modern moralists that theirs is the 
science of all good, and the art of attaining it ; they think 
only of some set of categorical precepts or some theory of 
moral sentiments, abstracting altogether from the ideals 
reigning in society, in science, and in art. They deal with 
the secondary question, What ought I to do ? without 
having answered the primary question, What ought to be ? 
They attach morals to religion rather than to politics, and 


this religion unhappily long ago ceased to be wisdom 
expressed in fancy in order to become superstition overlaid 
with reasoning. The basis is laid in authority rather than 
in human nature, and the goal in salvation rather than in 

It is in the nature of things that those who are incapable 
of happiness should have no idea of it. Happiness is not 
for wild animals, who can only oscillate between apathy 
and passion. To be happy, even to conceive happiness, 
you must be reasonable or (if Nietzsche prefers the word), 
you must be tamed. You must have taken the measure of 
your powers, tasted the fruits of your passions, and learned 
your place in the world and what things in it can really 
serve you. To be happy you must be wise. This happiness 
is sometimes found instinctively, and then the rudest 
fanatic can hardly fail to see how lovely it is ; but some 
times it comes of having learned something by experience 
(which empirical people never do) and involves some 
chastening and renunciation ; but it is not less sweet for 
having this touch of holiness about it, and the spirit of it 
is healthy and beneficent. The nature of happiness, 
therefore, dawns upon philosophers when their wisdom 
begins to report the lessons of experience ; an a priori 
philosophy can have no inkling of it. 


WE commonly become philosophers only after despairing 
of instinctive happiness, yet there is nothing impossible 
in the attainment of detachment through other channels. 
The immense is sublime as well as the terrible ; and mere 
infinity of the object, like its hostile nature, can have the 
effect of making the mind recoil upon itself. Infinity, 
like hostility, removes us from things, and makes us con 
scious of our independence. The simultaneous view of 
many things, innumerable attractions felt together, produce 
equilibrium and indifference. Let an infinite panorama 
be suddenly unfolded ; the will is instantly paralysed, and 


the heart choked. It is impossible to desire everything 
at once, and when all is offered and approved, it is impossible 
to choose everything. In this suspense, the mind soars 
into a kind of heaven, benevolent but unmoved. 

This is the attitude of all minds to which breadth of 
interest or length of years has brought balance and dignity. 
The sacerdotal quality of old age comes from this same 
sympathy in disinterestedness. Old men full of hurry 
and passion appear as fools, because we understand that 
their experience has not left enough mark upon their 
brain to qualify with the memory of other goods any 
object that may be now presented. We cannot venerate 
any one in whom appreciation is not divorced from desire. 
And this elevation and detachment of the heart need not 
follow upon any great disappointment ; it is finest and 
sweetest where it is the gradual fruit of many affections 
now merged and mellowed into a natural piety. Indeed, 
we are able to frame our idea of the Deity on no other 

While in contemplating the beautiful we find the per 
fection of life in our harmony with the object, in contem 
plating the sublime we find a purer and more inalienable 
perfection by defying all such harmony. The surprised 
enlargement of vision, the sudden escape from our ordinary 
interests and the identification of ourselves with some 
thing permanent and superhuman, something much more 
abstract and inalienable than our changing personality, 
all this carries us away from the private tragedies before 
us, and raises us into a sort of ecstasy. We escape from 
ourselves altogether, and live as it were in the object, 
energizing in imitation of its movement, and saying, " Be 
thou me, impetuous one 1 " This passage into what 
comes before us, to live its life, is indeed a characteristic 
of all perfect contemplation. But when in thus translating 
ourselves we rise and play a higher personage, feeling 
the exhilaration of a life freer and wilder than our own, 
then the experience is one of sublimity. The emotion 
comes not from the accidents we endure, but from the 
powers we conceive ; we fail to sympathize with the 
struggling sailors because we sympathize too much with 
the wind and waves. And this mystical cruelty can 


extend even to ourselves ; we can so feel the fascination 
of the cosmic forces that engulf us as to take a fierce joy 
in the thought of our own destruction. We can identify 
ourselves with the abstractest essence of reality, and, raised 
to that height, despise the human accidents of our own 
nature. Lord, we say, though thou slay me, yet will I 
trust in thee. The sense of suffering disappears in the 
sense of life and the imagination overwhelms the under 

If we could count the stars, we should not weep before 
them. While we think we can change the drama of 
history, and of our own lives, we are not awed by our 
destiny. But when the evil is irreparable, when our life 
is lived, a strong spirit has the sublime resource of standing 
at bay and of surveying almost from the other world the 
vicissitudes of this. 


IF we attempt to remove from life all its evils, as the 
popular imagination has done at times, we shall find little 
but aesthetic pleasures remaining to constitute unalloyed 
happiness. The satisfactions of passion and appetite, in 
which we chiefly place earthly happiness, themselves 
take on an aesthetic tinge when we remove ideally the 
possibility of loss or variation. What could the Olympians 
honour in one another or the seraphim worship in God 
except the embodiment of eternal attributes, of essences 
which, like beauty, make us happy only in contemplation ? 
The glory of heaven could not be otherwise symbolized 
than by light and music. Even the knowledge of truth, 
which the most sober theologians made the essence of 
the beatific vision, is an aesthetic delight ; for when know 
ledge of the truth has no further practical utility, the 
truth becomes a landscape. The delight in it is imaginative 
and the value of it aesthetic. 

This reduction of all values to immediate appreciations, 
to sensuous or vital activities, has struck even the minds 
most stubbornly moralistic. Only for them, instead of 


leading to the liberation of aesthetic goods from practical 
entanglements and their establishment as the only pure 
and positive values in life, this analysis has led rather 
to the denial of all pure and positive goods altogether. 
Such thinkers naturally assume that moral values are 
intrinsic and supreme ; and since many of these moral 
values would not arise but for the existence or imminence 
of physical evils, they embrace the paradox that without 
evil no good whatever is conceivable. 

The harsh requirements of apologetics have no doubt 
helped them to this position, from which one breath of 
spring or the sight of one well-begotten creature should 
be enough to dislodge them. Their ethical temper and 
the fetters of their servile imagination forbid them to 
reconsider their original assumption and to conceive that 
morality is a means and not an end ; that it is the price 
of human non-adaptation, and the consequence of the 
original sin of unfitness. It is the art of compressing 
human conduct within the narrow limits of the safe and 
possible. Remove danger, remove pain, remove the occa 
sion of pity, and the need of morality is gone. To say 
" thou shalt not " would then be an impertinence. 

But this elimination of precept would not be a cessation 
of life. The senses would still be open, the instincts would 
still operate, and lead all creatures to the haunts and 
occupations that befitted them. The variety of nature and 
the infinity of art, with the companionship of our fellows, 
would fill the leisure of that ideal existence. These are 
the elements of our positive happiness, the things which, 
amid a thousand vexations and vanities, make the clear 
profit of living. 

The odious circumstances which make the attainment 
of many goods conditional on the perpetration of some 
evil, and which punish every virtue by some incapacity 
or some abuse, these odious circumstances cannot rob 
any good of its natural sweetness, nor all goods together 
of their conceptual harmony. To the heart that has 
felt it and that is the true judge, every loss is irretrievable 
and every joy indestructible. 

When we attain perfection of function we lose con 
sciousness of the medium, to become more clearly conscious 


of the result. The eye that does its duty gives no report 
of itself and has no sense of muscular tension or weariness ; 
but it gives all the brighter and steadier image of the 
object seen. Consciousness is not lost when focussed, 
and the labour of vision is abolished in its fruition. So the 
musician, could he play so divinely as to be unconscious 
of his body, his instrument, and the very lapse of time, 
would be only the more absorbed in the harmony, more 
completely master of its unities and beauty. At such 
moments the body s long labour at last brings forth the 
soul. Life from its inception is simply some partial 
natural harmony raising its voice and bearing witness to 
its own existence ; to perfect that harmony is to round 
out and intensify that life. This is the very secret of 
power, of joy, of intelligence. Not to have understood 
it is to have passed through life without understanding 

The perfection thus revealed is relative to our nature 
and faculties ; if it were not, it could have no value for us. 
It is revealed to us in brief moments, but it is not for that 
reason an unstable or fantastic thing. Human attention 
inevitably flickers ; we survey things in succession, and 
our acts of synthesis and our realization of fact are only 
occasional. This is the tenure of all our possessions ; we 
are not uninterruptedly conscious of ourselves, our physical 
environment, our ruling passions, or our deepest conviction. 
What wonder, then, that we are not constantly conscious 
of that perfection which is the implicit ideal of all our 
preferences and desires ? We view it only in parts, as 
passion or perception successively directs our attention to 
its various elements. Some of us never try to conceive 
it in its totality. Yet our whole life is an act of worship 
to this unknown divinity ; every heartfelt prayer is offered 
before one or another of its images. 

This ideal of perfection varies, indeed, but only with 
the variations of our nature of which it is the counterpart 
and entelechy. There is perhaps no more frivolous notion 
than that a good, once attained, loses all its value. The 
instability of our attention, the need of rest and repair 
in our organs, makes a round of objects necessary to our 
minds ; but we turn from a beautiful thing, as from a 


truth or a friend, only to return incessantly, and with 
increasing appreciation. Nor do we lose all the benefit 
of our achievements in the intervals between our vivid 
realizations of what we have gained. The tone of the 
mind is permanently raised ; and we live with that general 
sense of steadfastness and resource, which is perhaps the 
kernel of happiness. Knowledge, affection, religion, and 
beauty are not less constant influences in a man s life 
because his consciousness of them is intermittent. Even 
when absent, they fill the chambers of the mind with a 
kind of fragrance. They have a continual efficacy, as 
well as a perennial worth. 


BEAUTY as we feel it is something indescribable : what 
it is or what it means can never be said. It is an affection 
of the soul, a consciousness of joy and security, a pang, a 
dream, a pure pleasure. It suffuses an object without 
telling why ; nor has it any need to ask the question. It 
justifies itself and the vision it gilds ; nor is there any 
meaning in seeking for a cause of it, in this inward sense. 
Beauty exists for the same reason that the object which 
is beautiful exists, or the world in which that object lies, 
or we that look upon both. It is an experience : there 
is nothing more to say about it. Indeed, if we look at 
things teleologically, and as they ultimately justify them 
selves to the heart, beauty is of all things what least calls 
for explanation. For matter and space and time and 
principles of reason and of evolution, all are ultimately 
brute, unaccountable data. We may describe what 
actually is, but it might have been otherwise, and the 
mystery of its being is as baffling and dark as ever. 

But we, the minds that ask all questions and judge 
of the validity of all answers, we are not ourselves inde 
pendent of this world in which we live. We sprang from 
it, and our relations in it determine all our instincts and 
satisfactions. This final questioning and sense of mystery 


is an unsatisfied craving which nature has her way of stilling. 
We ask for reasons only when we are surprised. If we 
had no expectations we should have no surprises. If our 
spontaneous thoughts came to run in harmony with the 
course of nature, if our expectations were then continually 
fulfilled, the sense of mystery would vanish. We should 
be incapable of asking why the world existed or had such 
a nature, just as we are now little inclined to ask why 
anything is right, but mightily disinclined to give up asking 
why anything is wrong. 

This satisfaction of our reason, due to the harmony 
between our nature and our experience, is partially realized 
already. The sense of beauty is its realization. When 
our senses and imagination find what they crave, when 
the world so shapes itself or so moulds the mind that the 
correspondence between them is perfect, then perception 
is pleasure, and existence needs no apology. A grateful 
environment is a substitute for happiness. The reason 
and the heart remain deeply unsatisfied. But the eye 
finds in nature, and in some supreme achievements of art, 
constant and fuller satisfaction. For the eye is quick, 
and seems to have been more docile to the education of 
life than the heart or the reason of man, and able sooner 
to adapt itself to the reality. Beauty therefore seems to 
be the clearest manifestation of perfection, and the best 
evidence of its possibility. If perfection is, as it should 
be, the ultimate justification of being, we may understand 
the ground of the moral dignity of beauty. Beauty is a 
pledge of the possible conformity between the soul and 
nature, and consequently a ground of faith in the prevalence 
of the good. 


THE passages from Mr. Santayana s works are from the following: 

The Sense of Beauty. New York. Charles Scribner s Sons. 1896. 

London. Constable & Co. (S. of B.) 

Interpretations of Poetry and Religion. New York. Charles 
Scribner s Sons. 1900. London. Constable & Co. (P.R.) 
Fhe Life of Reason, or the Phases of Human Progress. New York. 
Charles Scribner s Sons. 1905. London. Constable & Co. 
I. Introduction and Reason in Common Sense. (R. i.) 
II. Reason in Society. (R. n.) 

III. Reason in Religion. (R. in.) 

IV. Reason in Art. (R. iv.) 
V. Reason in Science. (R. v.) 

Three Philosophical Poets. Lucretius, Dante, and Goethe. Cam 
bridge, Harvard University. London. Humphrey Milford. 
1910. (Three Poets.) 

Spinoza s Ethics and " De Intellectus Emendatione." Translated by 
A. Boyle, with Introduction by Professor G. Santayana. 
London. J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd. 1910. Everyman s 
Library. (Spinoza.) 

Winds of Doctrine. Studies in Contemporary Opinion. London. 
J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd. 1913. (Winds.) 

Egotism in German Philosophy. London. J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd. 
1916. (Egotism.) 

1. Spirit the Judge. 5. of B. pp. 3-4. 

2. The Origin of Morals, (i) Spinoza, p. xv; (2) R. iv. p. 208; 

(3) P.R. iv. pp. 28-9. 

3. Ideals, (i) R. v. p. 209 ; (2) Three Poets, p. 98 ; (3) P.R. p. 246, 

4. Intellectual Ambition. P.R. pp. 1-3. 

5. The Suppressed Madness of Sane Men. R. I. pp. 5-52. 

6. The Birth of Reason. R. I. pp. 40, 44, 42, 45-7. 

7. The Difference Reason makes. R. i. pp. 59, 57-8, 53-4, 60. 

8. Body and Mind. R. i. pp. 205-13. 

9. The Self. R. iv. pp. 8-10. 

10. Self-Consciousness, Vanity, and Fame. R. n. pp. 140-46. 

11. False Moral Perspectives. R. i. pp. 248-51, 253-5, 252. 

12. Pain. R. i. pp. 224-5. 

13. What People will put up with. P.R. p. 242. 



14. Advantages of a Long Childhood. R. n. pp. 37, 36. 

15. The Transitive Force of Knowledge. R. I. pp. 78, 81, 130. 

16. Knowledge of Nature is Symbolic, (i) R. n. pp. 201-4 ( 2 ) 

Egotism, p. 6 ; (3) Winds, pp. 183-4. 

17. Relativity of Science. R. v. pp. 307-9. 

18. Mathematics and Morals. R. v. pp. 194-5. 

19. Mind-Reading. R. i. pp. 152-4, 149-50, 175-6. 

20. Knowledge of Character. R. i. pp. 155-8. 

21. Comradeship. R. n. pp. 147-9. 

22. Love. R. u. pp. 26-34. 

23. Imaginative Nature of Religion, (i) R. in. pp. 3-6; (2) R. i 

pp. 12 1-3 ; (3) R. m. p. 52 ; (4) Egotism, pp. 154-5. 

24. Prosaic Misunderstandings. P.R. pp. v-ix. 

25. The Haste to Believe, (i) R. in. p. 131 ; (2) R. in. p. 24. 

26. Pathetic Notions of God. (i) R. in. p. 34; (2) R. iv. p. 175; 

(3) P.R. p. 47. 

27. Greek Religion. Three Poets, pp. 63-4. 

28. Original Christian Faith. Winds, pp. 33-8. 

29. The Convert. P.R. pp. 85-6, 285, 88. 

30. Christian Doctrine a Moral Allegory. P.R. pp. 90-98. 

31. The Christian Epic. R. in. pp. 89-98. 

32. Pagan Custom infused into Christianity. R. in. 99-104. 

33. Christ and the Virgin. 5. of B. pp. 189-91. 

34. Orthodoxy and Heresy. P.R. pp. 57, 113-17. 

35. Protestantism, (i) R. m. pp. 115-18; (2) P.R. 112-13; (3) 

R. in. pp. 125-6 ; (4) R. i. pp. n-12. 

36. Piety. R. in. pp. 179, 184-5, 189-92. 

37. Spirituality. R. m. pp. 193-5. 

38. Prayer. R. m. pp. 44-8. 

39. The Fear of Death. Three Poets, pp. 51-4. 

40. Psychic Phenomena. R. in. pp. 232-4. 

41. A Future Life. R. in. pp. 243-7. 

42. Disinterested Interest in Life, (i) Three Poets, pp. 54-6; 

(2) R. m. pp. 254-5. 

43. Platonic Love. P.R. pp. 137-41. 

44. Ideal Immortality, (i) R .in. pp. 260-67, 268-73; (2) Spinoza, 

pp. xviii-xix. 

45. Justification of Art. R. iv. pp. 166-74. 

46. The Place of Art in Moral Economy. R. iv. pp. 181-4, I 77 ^- 

47. Rareness of ^Esthetic Feeling. R. iv. pp. 193-5. 

48. Art and Happiness. R. iv. pp. 222-3. 

49. Utility and Beauty. 5. of B. pp. 215-21. 

50. Glimpses of Perfection. 5. of B. pp. 260-62. 

51. Mere Art. R. iv. pp. 211-12. 

52. Costliness. S. of B. pp. 211-14. 

53. The Stars. S. of B. pp. 100-106. 

54. Music, (i) S. of B. pp. 69-70; (2) R. iv. pp. 45-9, 52-6; 

(3) Egotism, p. 161 ; (4) R. iv. pp. 56-60. 

55. The Essence of Literature. R. iv. pp. 82-4. 

56. The Need of Poetry. P.R. pp. 268-70. 

NOTE 289 

57. Poetry and Philosophy. Three Poets, pp. 8, 10-14, 123-4, I 4 2 - 

58. The Elements of Poetry. P.R. pp. 258-63. 

59. Poetry and Prose. R. iv. pp. 99-104. 

60. Primary Poetry. R. iv. pp. 87-94, 201-2. 

61. The Supreme Poet. Three Poets, pp. 212-15. 

62. Against Prying Biographers. Three Poets, p. 20. 

63. The Dearth of Great Men. (i) Winds, pp. 20-22, 109 ; (2) R. i. 

pp. 9-10. 

64. The Intellect out of Fashion. Winds, pp. 17-20, 23-4. 

65. Essence and Existence. R. i. pp. 180-82, 171-2. 

66. Malicious Psychology. R. i. pp. 84-6. 

67. On " Esse est percipi." R. i. pp. 112-14. 

68. Kant, (i) Egotism, pp. 54-60 ; (2) R. i. pp. 94-7. 

69. Transcendentalism, (i) R. v. p. 312; (2) R. i. pp. 29-30; 

(3) P.R. pp. 219-20; (4) .R. i. pp. 219-20; (5) P.R. p. 248; 
(6) Egotism, pp. 167-8. 

70. Precarious Rationalisms. R. i. pp. 198-202. 

71. Unjust Judgments, (i) R. I. pp. 106, 108-9 , (-} Egotism, p. 116 

(3) R. ii. p. 61 ; (4) R. i. p. 222. 

72. Modern Poetry. P.R. pp. 166-70. 

73. The Unhappiness of Artists. S. of B. pp. 63-5. 

74. Poetry of Latin Peoples. P.R. pp. 131-2. 

75. Dante. Three Poets, pp. 132-5. 

76. Absence of Religion in Shakespeare. P.R. pp. 153-6. 

77. Romantic Ignorance of Self, (i) P.R. p. 185; (2) Egotism, 

p. 137 ; (3) R. ii. p. 193. 

78. The Barbarian. R. i. pp. 262, 231-3. 

79. Romanticism. Three Poets, pp. 143-8, 196-9. 

80. The Politics of Faust. Three Poets, pp. 181-5. 

81. Emerson, (i) P.R. pp. 231-3 ; (2) Winds, pp. 197-200. 

82. Shelley. Winds, pp. 158-60. 

83. Browning. P.R. pp. 192-4, 199-207. 

84. Nietzsche. Egotism, pp. 127, 134-5. 

85. Intrinsic Values. Egotism, pp. 109-11. 

86. Heathenism. Egotism, pp. 144-9. 

87. Moral Neutrality of Materialism. Three Poets, pp. 32-4. 

88. Value Irrational. S. of B. pp. 16-20. 

89. Emotions of the Materialist, (i) R. v. pp. 89-94 ( 2 ) Spinoza, 

p. viii. 

90. Sadness of Naturalism, (i) R. i. pp. 189-93; (2) P.R. p. 21; 

(3) R. iv. p. 169; (4) Three Poets, pp. 210-11. 

91. Happiness in Disillusion. P.R. pp. 249-50; R. II. p. 195- 

92. The True Place of Materialism, (i) Three Poets, p. 27 ; (2) R. i. 

pp. 16-17 ; (3) Egotism, p. 70. 

93. Intuitive Morality. R. v. pp. 218-23. 

94. Relativity of Values, (i) Winds, pp. 151-2; (2) 5. of B. pp. 

41-2; (3) R. i. p. 32. 

95. Authority of Reason in Morals. R. v. pp. 231-2, 249-50, 244-5, 

248, 266-8. 

96. Pleasures Ingenuous, (i) S. of B. p. 39 ; (2) R. iv. pp. 168-9. 


97. The Lower Senses. S. of 13. pp. 66-8. 

98. Pleasure and Conscience. S. of B. pp. 23-5. 

99. The Worth of Pleasures and Pains. R. i. pp. 236-9, 55-6. 

100. The Voluptuary and the Worldling. R. in. pp. 200-204, 210. 

101. Moral War. R. v. pp. 233-8. 

102. Origin of Tyranny. R. n. pp. 70-72, 80, 79. 

103. War. R. n. pp. 81-5. 

104. Patriotism, (i) R. in. pp. 186-7; ( 2 ) R- u - PP- I 7 I 4I (3) 

Winds, p. 6. 

105. Industrial Idealism, (i) R. iv. p. 21 ; (2) 7?. n. pp. 67-8. 

106. Collectivism. R. n. pp. 133-4, 5 2 3- 

107. Christian Morality. R. V. pp. 281-6. 

108. Supernaturalism. R. v. pp. 290-91, 297-300. 

109. Post-Rational Morality. R. v. pp. 266-8. 
no. The Need of Discipline. R. iv. pp. 188-90. 

in. Happiness, (i) R. v. pp. 251-3 ; (2) R. i. p. 30 ; (3) Egotism, 
pp. 152-3. 

112. Detachment. S. of B. pp. 241-2, 244-5. 

113. The Profit of Living, (i) 5. of B. pp. 29-31 ; (2) P.R. p. 101; 

(3) R. I. pp. 229-30 ; (4) 5. of B. pp. 263-4. 

114. Beauty a Hint of Happiness. S. oj B. pp. 267-70.